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- Jean Donati Acupuncture604 E. Joppa RD
Towson, MD 21286410-984-3700
- • 5 Ways to Stay Fit This Winter •
- • 4 Budget Friendly Family Activities •
- • Staying Healthy This Winter •
We are now in the midst of Winter. The season is cold, dark, and quiet. Winter is for us, as for all of nature, a time on internal work: meditation, containment, concentration, and storing our energy. We use this season for rest, and for the replenishing of our reserves, gathering strength for the year ahead. Like the seed that cannot sprout until it has gathered sufficient strength, our ideas and plans cannot manifest if our energy is dispersed or drained.
In Chinese medicine, the element associated with Winter is Water. Let us talk a little about water and its associations. Water can take on many different qualities in nature. It can take the form of a stagnant pond, or powerful rapids. It can be a smooth flowing stream, or water raging out of control. The water element can show up like this in all of us. When our water energy is balanced, we are a calm lake or stream. Our energy is moving, neither stagnant or overflowing. When we are out of balance, we may become a flooding river, or when immobilized with fear, a frozen creek.
The organs associated with winter are the kidney and bladder. In Chinese medicine, when we talk about organs, we are talking about the energetic aspects of the organ in an individual, not about Western anatomy and physiology. The kidney, in Chinese medicine, are the root of the life force energy or Qi. The kidneys create the fire and warmth to sustain bodily functions and to provide energy to the other organs. The bladder controls the expenditure of energy. You can look at the kidney as being the the bank account, and the bladder as the ATM machine. The acupuncture points along these pathways of energy can be used to fill the reserves and awaken that place within us where our real strength, courage and wisdom lie.
Abundant reserves within us give us the courage and strength of will. When we lack these reserves, we may feel fearful. In Chinese medicine, the emotion of fear is associated with the element of water and the season of winter. The emotion of a distressed water element is fear of not having enough of what it takes to meet the challenges that lie ahead, fear of being unable to complete what we have envisioned, or fear of not being prepared for what we might have to face. It is as if we do not have enough stored away to survive the winter.
How does an imbalanced water element show up in an individual? In Chinese medicine, the individual is viewed on levels of the body, mind, and spirit. Dis-ease often manifests on more than one level. On a physical level, one may feel fatigued, lacking energy (the energetic bank account or ATM depleted). Water also lubricates the body. We are, after all, 85% water! With lack of lubrication comes stiffness. Do your bones or joints hurt more in winter? Are you more anxious? Thoughts, ideas, muscles and joints move easier when they are lubricated.
In terms of the mind and spirit, do you feel like you want to do things but you simply cannot? That you seem to be stuck on the sofa with your mind saying “I should do this, or I should do that”, but you simply cannot get up enough energy to get it going? Or maybe you seem to be going all the time—frantically moving from one thing to another –always running about but never truly getting much accomplished.
Within the energy of water lies our will, our ability to keep on keeping on. So what can you do? My number one advice is to remember to take time to relax completely for at least 30 minutes during the day. This means to kick back, listen to music perhaps, but definitely relax your body and mind.
Acupuncture is not just for pain. It addresses the underlying condition and is used to balance the whole person. You cannot separate the body and the mind—balance one and you balance the other. Emotional blocks can be moved and physical symptoms can be cleared as a person is brought back into healthy balance. Just some of the areas that acupuncture addresses; the digestive, reproductive, immune and respiratory symptoms, anxiety, depression, that annoying “stuck” feeling and, of course, physical discomfort.
To maintain the fire of the kidney, a winter diet ideally would be warming and substantial with more whole grains, less fruit, and lots of steamed or baked vegetables, especially root vegetables. Soup is a great addition to the diet during winter as it is easy on the digestive system and keeps our inner fire warm. Warming herbs and spices like ginger, chili peppers and cinnamon are wonderful additions to your diet this time of year.
Exercise such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong are very good for inner balance, as they build strength, improve immune function and cultivate Qi (energy) through breathing, meditation and slow movements. If you have lower back pain, you may find that rest, warm foods, and activities that support that support your inner balance may supplement your water energy and diminish your symptoms. Remember, the kidneys and bladder are governed by water. Give them all the help you can by drinking more water.
Finally, if you receive acupuncture, winter is a great time for a tune up. If you do not receive acupuncture, winter is a great time to start building your reserves.
Easing Transitions with the Earth Element
We all are very familiar with Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter but why does Chinese Medicine include a fifth season and where does it fit on the calendar?
According to TCM theory, the fifth season is actually that important time between the seasons, where we ‘return to center’ so we can ‘pivot’. About 2-3 weeks before the beginning of each season is a time of transition.
Each season correlates with an elemental energy. Spring belongs to the wood element, Summer to fire, Fall to metal and Winter to water. The transitional time between the seasons rightfully belongs to the earth element as this is the time when the seasonally dominant energy returns to the earth to be transformed into the next seasonal energy.
The Earth Element is generated and managed in the body by the spleen and stomach. These organs are in the business of metamorphosis. As digestive organs (according to TCM), they transport and transform the food we eat into nutrition to build our blood and nourish our cells. The spleen governs the muscles, and is important in the free movement of the body. The associated orifice is the mouth and spleen Qi manifests in the lips. The Spleen is also known for housing the intellect (yi) and is involved with the thinking aspect of spirit. The color of the earth element is yellow, and the taste is sweet.
The Chinese Lunar Calendar sets the start of the seasons earlier than our Gregorian calendar, so if we are following the seasons according to Chinese Medicine We are currently in Late Summer, and this is the time to pay special attention to the energy of transition.
The benefit of nourishing our earth element during this time is to gain balance and stability for periods of change. The earth element represents our wide center stance from which we can safely assess the next move (picture the slow smooth movements of tai chi). The importance of core stability rings true whether we are talking about physical activity or more subtle energy dynamics.
Avoid damp cold food such as ice cream as it can put a burden on the spleen that prefers warm, dry conditions. Eat breakfast between 7-9am which is stomach time according to the Qi clock. From 9-11am is spleen time. Some gentle activity is ok but as the spleen converts food to Qi, try to take it easy so you do not disrupt digestion. Avoid processed sugar while enjoying the natural balance of sweetness from the earth with foods like apples, carrots, dates, and sweet potatoes.
2) Release Worry-Patterns:
The spleen houses the intellect and is responsible for thought but can be weighed down by overthinking. This will slow its ability to transform our food. We can all think of times when worry led to unpleasant digestive experiences.
So, find ways to shift patterns of over-thinking and worry.
(Cue the serenity prayer…)
Stimulate earth energy with its color and brighten up someone’s day by wearing more yellow. Notice the yellow colors in nature, stop and absorb their frequency. And eat yellow foods: bananas, yellow peppers, lemons etc.
You know what to do. Connect direct! Get those bare feet on the ground (pesticide-free please).
Now get some Vitamin-E on those earthy lips and pucker up: you’ll be ready to give Fall a sweet kiss hello.
There are 5 elements or Seasons of energy in Acupuncture. Each is associated with time, color, sound, odor, foods and other associations. These 5 Elements are s follows.
Earth (Late Summer) Holding energy, nourishing, supporting
Metal (Autumn) Descending movement, letting go, loss
Water (Winter) Stillness, persistence movement, power, regenerating
Wood (Spring) Uprising movement, birth, growth
Summer (Fire) Dancing energy, playfulness, blossoming
Late Summer & The Earth Element
Late Summer is a nurturing time of the year. We have a surplus of fruits and vegetables, gifts from the growth and busyness of the Spring and Summer seasons.
In Late Summer, the activities of Summer start to slow down while harvest time kicks into gear. The plants and trees offer their bounty of fruit and vegetables. Food is available for all animals before fall approaches and preparation for winter begins. Late summer reminds us that Mother Earth gives us all that we need without asking anything in return.
So how does this the energetic movement of Earth and Late Summer show up in us?
Emotionally, the Earth Element shows up as the emotions of sympathy, empathy, and compassion. Our ability to give and receive caring feelings and mothering energy.
Physically, the Earth Element shows up as our Digestive System. The Stomach, Spleen, and Pancreas are the organs that break down, digest, and helps to transport nourishment to the body.
Spiritually, the Earth Element gives us the ability to feel an inner nourishment through stability, security, and abundance. When we overflow with this energy, we are able to share our bounty with others.
When the Earth Element is in balance we have the gifts of nurturing, thoughtfulness, nourishment, taste, sympathy, and stability to give to others.
When the Earth Element is out of balance, we may feel obsessive worry or sympathy, self-centered or insecure, not be able to give or receive help or care from others. We can feel a lack of abundance, what we have is not enough. Physically, muscle pain, digestive problems, ulcers, or headaches can occur. Issues with the relationship with food and body image can arise as well.
If your Earth Element Qi is feeling stuck here are 4 practices that can help:
- GIVE…Lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need; give a random gift to someone in your life; volunteer your time at a homeless shelter or food kitchen; Give out hugs; Literally, feed your partner or friend.
- GRATITUDE…Keep a daily gratitude journal; Give thanks to the Earth and her creatures for providing nourishment; When you say “Thank You” look the person in the eye and mean it from your heart.
- RECEIVE…Consciously accept the thank you, gifts, and offerings of others; Be aware of the processes of taking in food, chewing and digesting.
- ACUPUNCTURE… If you have been receiving seasonal acupuncture treatments, between now and October is the perfect time to come in for your Late Summer session. It can help bring Nourishment to your body, mind, and soul! If you are new to acupuncture, massage, nutrition, or energy medicine, now is the perfect time to start acupuncture treatments! Give Jean Donati Acupuncture a Call at 410-984-3700.
Over the past few days, I have had several patients ask me …”I am coming in for neck pain or back pain or shoulder pain…where are you going to put the needles”? Or if I have been seeing the patient I am asked “when are you going to treat my pain… why don’t you just put the needles where my pain is?”
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the flow of energy or Qi, moves in specific pathways called meridians. There are 14 major pathways, and these pathways interact with each other. Initially, when I first see a patient, I like to make sure that the overall energy is clear, so I do a few “clearing treatments” before I focus on shifting any energy in a specific pathway.
Your energy is like a garden. I want flowers or crops to grow, so I need to make sure the ground is ready for planting. This means removing any unnecessary weeds, or rocks or debris. This is what the clearing treatments do. They make the energy channels clear and ready for shifts in energy. The clearing treatments are generally on the front, or back of the body and can consist of 2-4 treatments if necessary. This is to ensure that the energy is moving in the proper direction, not being contaminated. It is like removing a kink form a hose so you can let the water flow.
There is another important thing to note. Say you come in for wrist pain, there are 6 pathways that encompass the wrist area. These include the heart, small intestine, triple heater, pericardium, lung and large intestine pathways of energy. They all start at the fingertips and go up the wrist, to the forearm. Some of these pathways diverge to the chest, face and back. So, needles may not be placed in the wrist for wrist pain if there is a blockage of energy along a pathway is say the small intestine at the level of the scapula or shoulder blade.
Traditional Chinese medicine takes all of this into account. So, when I am asked “When are you going to treat my pain?” My answer is… I already am…I started with the first session. Sometimes clearing the general energy blocks (which can include internal and external factors such as emotions, heat, cold, wind, damp, excess or deficiency, side to side energy pathway balance) can make a profound change in the symptoms you came in with and others you were not aware of such as sleep, mood, digestion and concentration.
My treatment protocol consists of the following…
Clear general energy blocks -Internal Dragons, External Dragons, Aggressive Energy, Alkabane (side to side balance). 1-4 treatments if needed.
Clear local pathway energy blocks form one pathway to another (Entry/exit blocks) if needed
Treat meridian root cause with local and distal points at each treatment after the clearing treatments
Ashi points or painful points not specifically on an energy pathway.
As a team, we are teaching your energy how to stay open and clear, but sometimes life gets in the way, and blockages can reoccur. Each part of this protocol may need to be done, or just one part, or perhaps several at the same time to shift the energy when it needs to shift. Each treatment builds on the one before, so it is important to have regular and frequent treatments early in your treatment course. As your symptom resolves, the length of time between treatments can be increased as long as you remain symptom free. Once we get to this point, I generally like to have my patients come back monthly for a tune up so that we can continue to keep their energy clear and keep them symptom free.