February 20, 2013
Over the years I have practiced many forms of Qigong (aka Chi Kung), but have found the most powerful form to be Zhan Zhuang (Standing Like a Tree). Zhan Zhuang is a relaxed form of standing meditation in various postures. There are no special breathing patterns or conscious directing of energy. The body and its qi (energy) seem to know what to do and where to go without being told.
In this this stillnes there is a lot of movement. The practitioner can feel the energy after a time moving throughout his or her body and can feel where the energy is blocked. If you stand first thing in the morning right after using the bathroom, you will feel movement in your stomach and intestines. You might even have to return to the bathroom, because of the powerful peristaltic action on the intestines.
Daily standing can also build internal strength, which can influence outer strengh. Master Lam Kam Chuen relates in his excellent introductory book, The Way of Energy, how his teacher was forced to compete against a martial artist after his teacher had been practicing standing for several years. Master Lam’s teacher didn’t understand why he had to do this, and thought he had no chance to win. What he found was that he had great strength and easily controlled the martial artist. Master Lam’s teacher first began standing because he was exhausted from long working days. After diligent daily practice his health became robust.
Martial artist and teacher, Bruce Kumar Frantzis, relates in his book, The Power of Internal Martial Arts, how daily standing practice helped him to recover from judo and sparing matches in the Far East. He also relates how it improved his hand speed, perhaps because the nervous system experiences a relaxed rewiring.
Almost all traditional martial arts, including Tai Chi Chuan, begin with standing postures. They build a relaxed power and strength. They allow you to sink and root in your movements, and these translate into power and health. It is therefore not surprising that Zhan Zhuang has been called the “million dollar secret.”
January 30, 2013
Most people are aware of the health benefits of olive oil, but few know about the healing effects of olive leaf extract. From the Middle East to South America from the Mediterranean to Australia, olive leaves have been used medicinally.
Morton Walker, DPM, a professional medical journalist who has written over 1,800 hundred articles and 69 books on holistic healing, says that olive leaf extract assists “in the general dergradation of the following pathological organisms: viruses, retroviruses, bacteria, spirochetes, rickettsia, chlamydia, fungi, yeasts, molds, protozoa, helminths [worms], and other parasites” (45). There is one story in his book, Olive Leaf Extract, that talks about a man who was very seriously ill with a virus that was not responding to Western medicine. It was his Italian-American grandmother who insisted he try olive leaf extract. Shortly after following her advice, he recovered. Another story talks about a woman suffering the collapse of her immune system due to Lyme Disease and her remarkable improvement.
Studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that olive leaf extract improves flu, Candida, gout, type 2 Diabetes, Chronic Fatigue, Herpes, HIV, Lyme Disease, arthritis, and other diseases and conditions.
The only side effect for some is mild gastric upset, which can generally be remedied by taking the herb with a meal. One Naturopath found in his experiment that olive leaf extract did not kill the beneficial bacteria or flora in the gut, unlike antibiotics.
Dosage is 500 mg or more for most people. Some physicans have found that two 500mg capsules taken 2 or even 3 times a day works best depending on the person’s condition and constitution. As always it’s best to discuss this herb and its dosage with your health care provider.
Of course, there is no such thing as a panacea, but with flu being ubiquitous this season, consider adding olive leaf extract as part of your health regimen to bolster your immunity or as part of a treatment if you already have the flu.
Duke, James, A., Ph.D., The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. New York: Rodale Press, 2000.
Kuhn, Merrily A. and David Winston. Herbal Therapy and Supplements, 2nd Ed. New York: Wolters Kluwer Health, 2008.
Walker, Morton, DPM, Olive Leaf Extract. New York: Kennsington, 1997.
January 20, 2013
Stress can kill. At the very least it can make life miserable if it overwhelms you. Sometimes you are not even aware of it until you’re short with someone for no apparent reason, or you find yourself overreacting to a small slight. And who is not overly stressed in modern America?
Have you noticed that when you are stressed, your chronic weak spots hurt or hurt more? For some, it’s tension headaches that start in their necks or shoulders; for others, it’s pain in their arms or backs, etc. According to the Mayo Clinic, “long term activation of the stress-response system, and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones, can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems: heart disease, sleep problems, digestive problems, depression, obesity, memory impairment, worsening of skin conditions (such as eczema). That’s why it is so important to learn to cope with stressors in your life.”
What if there was a simple technique practiced consistently for as little as 10 minutes a day that has been proven scientifically to lower your stress levels? There is! Meditation.
Meditation decreases cortisol and other stress hormones. It “increases alpha waves (relaxed brain waves) in as little as 10 minutes (Barbor).
“The proven beneficial effects of regular mindful meditation are protection against and reversal of DNA damage, a boost in immune function, reduction of cardiovascular disease risks, decreased inflammation, improved outcomes in cancer, reduced side effects of conventional treatment, and increased vital energy and physical capacity” (Eliaz).
One study by Jon Kabbat-Zinn, PhD., of the University of Massachusetts, found that stressed participants who meditated for 8 straight weeks “felt happier and calmer” (Allen). In another study after only 8 weeks of meditating 30 minutes a day, there were “measurable changes in the gray matter density in parts of the brain we associate with memory, sense of self, empathy, and stress” (Bhanoo). I often find active amygdala ear points on patients (with an acupuncture point finder that measures electrical resistance). An active ear point identifies a problem that needs to be treated. The amygdala is an area in the brain that is very active during anxious, stressful, or fearful moments. “MRI’s of meditators show a reduction in gray matter in the amygdala” (Bhanoo). The brain physically changes with meditation! Those physcial changes can protect and improve mental and physical health. Think of the exciting possibilities in the emerging study of meditation and neuroplasticity (brain changes and growth).
I urge you to make meditation a daily practice. For simple directions on how to meditate, please see the previous blog entry.
Allen, Colin.”The Benefits of Meditation.” Psychology Today 1 April 2003.
20 Jan. 2013 www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200304/the-benefits-medtation
Barbor, Cary. “The Scinece of Meditation.” Psychology Today 1 May 2001.
20 Jan. 2013 www.pyschologytoday.com/articles/200105/the-science-meditation
Bhanoo, Sindya N. “How Meditation May Change the Brain.”
The New York Times Health/Science
28 Jan. 2011. 20 Jan. 2013
Eliaz, Isaac, MD. “The Simple Trick That Strengthens Your Brain.” Rodale
5 Jan. 2013. 20 Jan. 2013 www.rodale.com/meditation-benefits
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Stress Management.” Mayo Clinic 11 Sept. 2010. 20 Jan. 2013
Jan. 7, 2013
Many people find meditating very difficult if not impossible. They say they have tried it, but their thoughts were constantly interfering. They may not realize that meditating is a skill that requires practice. It also requires that you are gentle with yourself. It’s all right if thoughts intrude. When you remember that you are supposed to be in the present moment, you just gently nudge your focus back to your breath. Notice how it enters the nose and how far down it travels. Does the breath only reach the top of the chest? That’s ok. It will, with practice, deepen without your forcing it. You are there only as an observer. When you forget that, don’t be hard on yourself and feel discouraged. Just return to the practice of noticing your breath. You will also natually notice different areas of tightness in the body and sensations; you may hear the AC go on or birds chirping, all very natural, you are aware of them, but your focus is on the breath. If you have an itch, scratch it, then return to your practice.
Start with 5 minutes a day. It’s not so daunting then. It’s best to sit on the edge of a comfortable chair if you are able. It’s better if your spine does not touch the back of the chair; however, if you need the support, it’s all right to lean back. It’s also better for men if their genitals are off the chair for the best flow of energy (qi or chi) circulation. Put your tongue on your palate just above your front teeth. This connects the Governing (Du in Chinese) and Conceptual (Ren) channels and prevents energy from getting stuck in the head. Place your palms on your knees or thighs and begin.
After a few days you will notice a new sense of calm, relaxation, compassion even, and focus. Once you are more comfortable, add a minute every week or so until you find the right length of meditation for you. It may be 10 minutes or more once you experience the rewards. They come in time, be patient. Next week’s blog will focus on modern research concerning the benefits of meditation. It can actually physically change the brain according to studies.
1. The actor Samuel L. Jackson has had back problems, even surgery, but he gets acupuncture for more than just pain. On the Ellen Degeneres’ show he said, “It’s one of my favorite things. I get it all the time, like twice a week, for my well being. I just go and get my ‘waa’ put in place, and get everything moving.” Stress, poor eating habits, bad posture, too much physical or mental work, strong emotions of anger, worry, sadness, or fear, can disbalance us. Even weather extremes can affect us. Acupuncture can clear the energy pathways in our bodies and restore balance and harmony or put our “waa” back in place.
2. Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.
~William Shakespeare, Macbeth
But what if you can’t sleep? Are you having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both? Insomnia (Shi Mian in Chinese), has two main causes: malnourishment of the mind, a deficiency pattern in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and disturbance of the mind, an excess pattern. These two main patterns are divided into several syndromes or smaller patterns. The Acupuncture Physician will listen to your history and your voice, observe your appearance, demeanor, and tongue, feel your pulse, and more, to determine which pattern applies to you. Based on this he or she will choose an acupuncture protocol and herbal formula specifically for you. In this way Chinese Medicine is different from the modern allopathic approach.
Until you see an Acupuncture Physician, make sure you exercise daily. Before you take a prescription medicine, research the side effects. Don’t just read the drug maker’s website. If you have trouble falling asleep, before going to bed, soak your feet in warm water. This helps bring the energy down from the head. Meditation can be helpful for some people, even something as simple as focusing on your breath. If you awaken, don’t turn on the TV or computer. For many people the light and sensory information make falling back to sleep more difficult.
3. Women, want to wear that sleeveless dress or tank top, but you are worried about how your arms look? What is the best exercise for “jiggly arms”? According to a University of Wisconsin study, it’s the triangular push-up. After getting in the girl’s push-up position on hands and knees, you simply place your hands close together on the floor, so the minimal space between them forms a triangle. Keeping your back straight and head looking at the floor, gently lower your body until your chest touches the floor and push up. After you have checked with your doctor, try starting with one set three times a week with a least a day off in between. As you get stronger you can add more sets and repetitions. You can even lift your knees. The best thing about this is it can be done anywhere, it requires no equipment, and it’s free. For information about all the exercises in the study and their ratings, go to (http://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/1562/).