Apr 27 2020
It should not come as a surprise that one of the keys to maintaining pulmonary health is in the breath. How do we maintain respiratory and aerobic capacity? What role does the flexibility of the spine, rib cage and shoulders play in our ability to take a deep breath and fill our lungs? How do you cultivate the ability to take a deep breath and hold it?
Flexibility of the musculoskeletal system plays an important role in maintaining pulmonary health. The ability to inhale and exhale deeply is reliant upon the mobility of bones and joints that constitute the rib cage. It also relies upon the pliability of the soft tissues; the muscles, tendons and ligaments and their ability to expand and contract in response to breath and movement. Breathing produces movement within the ribcage as well as the rythmic pulsing of fluids and energy throughout the human body.
Breathing and stretching exercises can help you to improve your lung capacity and slow down your respiratory rate. Respiratory illness results in just the opposite, rapid shallow breaths. Perform these simple exercises daily and you will be on your way to cultivating a stronger, more resilient response to respiratory illness including asthma, COPD and infectious diseases including Covid-19. You are also likely to notice the calming effect that deep breathing has upon your nervous system.
1. Pursed lip breathing
This is an exercise that can help you to maintain healthy airways. Breathe in slowly through your nose. Hold your breath at the top of your inhalation for 10 seconds. The ability to hold your breath is critical for maintaining good lung health. Then, breathe out slowly through pursed lips, lengthening your expiration until you have expelled all the air possible. Imagine you are blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.
2. Three part breathing exercise
Lying supine, rest your hands on your belly below your navel. Inhale deeply, and direct your breath into the belly, then exhale. If you are doing this properly your hands will rise as you breathe, in and then fall as you breathe out. You can repeat this exercise and develop a slow methodical rhythm breathing into the belly followed by a long slow exhale.
Next, place your hands on each side of your lower ribs. Breathe into the belly and then continue to inhale as the breath flows up into the lower ribs. A long deep inspiration is followed by a slow full exhalation. Relaxing your belly and the ribs on the outbreath.
Finally, place your hands on your chest just below your collar bones. Breathe into your belly then ribs and then your upper chest. As you progressively breathe into your belly, ribs and upper chest your entire trunk will rise and expand. As you breathe out your belly, ribs and chest will relax and sink downwards.
Tip: Count to 4 on the breath in, count to 4 on the breath out. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed. Avoid hunching them up to your ears. Avoid over efforting or tensing any part of your body in an effort to direct your breath. This exercise can be quite meditative as you envision your breath moving up through your trunk and then releasing back down and out.
3. Towel stretch with back bend
With arms extended in front of you wider than shoulder width, hold the ends of a long towel or sheet. Slowly breathe in, raise the towel toward the ceiling and extend your arms reaching over your head. Lean backward as far as you can, while gazing upward. Keep your neck relaxed while stretching the front of the chest and rib cage. Hold the breath for several seconds. Then, slowly lower the towel while breathing out on the way back down back down.
Tip: You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by begining with your hands closer to each other. Keep your neck soft and in line with your spinal column. Tilting your head backwards or forward which will invite neck strain.
4. Towel stretch with side bends
Repeat the first exercise until arms are raised up to the ceiling, then lean trunk and head sideways while pulling on the lower end of the towel as you stretch the opposite side of the rib cage. Bring your arms back up to the ceiling (neutral) and repeat to the other side.
Tip: Keep your weight evenly distributed between both legs while leaning sidewards.Your head rests upon the top of your spinal column. Be aware of your neck responding and following the sideward movement of the trunk.
Good posture supports healthy breathing. Sitting in collapsed rounded postures promotes shallow breathing. By maximizing your lung health before getting sick you are improving your ability to respond to and recover from illness. Typically we use only half of our lung capacity. Good posture, breathing exercises, stretching, aerobic activity and good indoor air quality are complementary components of pulmonary health.
Apr 6 2020
Houli Tai Chi is pleased to offer our Qigong course online. In this virtual series of eight classes we will practice Yin Jin Jing Qigong. Boost your immune system with Yin Jin Jing. Develop strength, flexibility, alignment and breath. This class is geared for both beginners and intermediate practitioners. Wednesdays at 11:00AM – 12:00PM. Begins April 8, 2020. The first class is complimentary. Everyone is welcome including families!
The focus of our practice is to return to a state of balance and harmony within the body, mind and heart. It is meditative, strengthening, good for balance and benefits everyone. Qigong increases the Chi/Qi or life force in the body. When one has ample Qi, one feels wonderfully alive and strong. A deficit of Qi can lead to fatigue and illness.
Each class will begin with a brief period of standing meditation, followed by simple yet powerful Qigong exercises that are easy to learn. In Yin Jin Jing, our movements are slow, fluid and relaxing. Regular attendance and practice are suggested.
Our YI JIN JING Qigong practice focuses on the transformation of tendons and ligaments to keep them strong and supple. This longevity practice cultivates posture, alignment and mobility with specific exercises. Qigong helps you to maintain flexibility, strength and promotes fluid, centered movement.
Houli is the Chinese word for vitality and energy. The Huoli school of Tai Chi is offered by Frome Physical Therapy, a holistic physical therapy practice in Loch Arbour. Its’ co-owners David and Rebekah Frome invite you to join this practice. They are pleased to share this gentle yet profoundly healing practice with the community. David Frome has been studying Tai Chi and Qigong at the Society for Nanlaoshu for the past 13 years.
In our Yin Jin Jing practice, we utilize meditation and movement to cultivate health throughout life’s journey.
Mar 9 2020
The journey from pregnancy into motherhood is both miraculous and daunting. As the fetus develops and becomes a baby, remarkable demands are placed upon your body as you become host to another life. As you physically carry that responsibility, your health and well being are challenged in many ways.
If you don’t want to use drugs, what can you do?
Pregnancy requires your body to work overtime to meet the needs of the growing life within you. Acupuncture is well suited to help you meet the everyday challenges of digestion, constipation and colds. It can also be helpful with pregnancy related nausea, respiratory and urinary infections, pelvic, low back, upper back and neck pain, leg cramps and carpal tunnel syndrome.
How can I increase my chances for having a natural childbirth?
In the weeks before childbirth, acupuncture can be used to prepare your body for labor. Studies have shown that women who receive acupuncture weekly in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy have more comfortable labors with fewer medical interventions (pitocin, epidural injections and cesarean sections.) Additionally, when needed, acupuncture can be used to turn the baby (with posterior or breach presentations) and induce labor.
Acupressure is an excellent way to manage pain and discomfort during labor. Your birthing partner or labor support person can be trained to use specialized acupressure points to help manage pain during labor. These acupressure techniques are easy to learn and are remarkably helpful in the labor process. Bring your partner to your acupuncture treatment so they can learn the acupressure points for labor support.
After the baby is born, new mothers are often challenged. Classically, the Chinese have viewed the first month as Zuo Yuezi or “sitting the month.” In this important time the mom is supported, nurtured and sheltered to help both the new mom and baby develop and bond.
Can acupuncture help new mothers? Yes! Acupuncture can help you with lactation problems, post-partum depression and the many physical issues that visit the new mother’s body.
Five Element Acupuncture supports the health of the mind, body and heart to come into balance in pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood and at any time in your life. Call us at 973.509.8464 • 212.529.1901 or book on line to schedule an appointment.
Feb 4 2020
Women today often carry a lot of weight on their shoulders. Pocketbooks and shoulder bags are often large and stuffed to the gills. Laptops, water bottles, cosmetics, spare shoes and snacks are just some of the items that overload women’s handbags. What happens when we shoulder too many burdens in a big bag?
If you are carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder or hand, it may be putting a strain on your neck, back and shoulders. Our bodies were not designed for carrying heavy weights with one arm or shoulder. The burden of the weight is on the top of the shoulder, compressing the spine and throwing us off balance.
Carrying a heavy bag can lead to neck, shoulder or back pain. Additionally, while the body is developing, and throughout life, carrying a large, asymmetrical load can reinforce structural problems including scoliosis and kyphosis.
This article explores the impact of Big Bag Syndrome and how you can avoid it.
Big bag syndrome can affect your structure in many ways:
- One shoulder is elevated to keep the bag from slipping.
- The body leans to the side and sometimes forward. You use the weight of your body to counterbalance against the heavy bag.
- The body braces to keep you from tipping over. When you carry an asymmetrical load (either in your hand or over your shoulder) your body braces to stabilize. That means you lean in the opposite direction (away from the load) and the muscles of the back work extra hard to try to compensate and keep you upright. Over time, chronically tightened muscles of the back can shorten and spasm.
- Big bag syndrome can take a toll on your structure. Chronically tight muscles shorten over time. The myofascial span actually shortens and thickens.
- The spine can develop scoliosis (an abnormal lateral curve.) Scoliosis develops while the vertebrae of the spine are growing, during the first 25 years of life. A myofascial shortening of the erector spinae on one side of the back may contribute to scoliosis.
- The body loses flexibility and becomes more prone to injury. When the myofascial shortens and thickens, we become less flexible. Loss of flexibility makes us prone to sprains, strains and tendonitis.
- Ultimately, both our posture and alignment can suffer. As the body tries to adapt to carrying a one sided load, the compensations become recorded in our structure and make it difficult to maintain a healthy posture.
What can you do to avoid Big Bag Syndrome?
- Keep it light. If you need to carry a hand or shoulder bag, limit the weight to less than 5% of body weight. If you weigh 140 lbs, that means your shoulder or handbag should weigh less than 7 lbs.
- Wear the shoulder bag strap across your back to stabilize the load.
- Carry two shoulder bags, one on each side for a more symmetrical load.
- Better yet, carry a backpack, which gives you a symmetrical load, assuming you wear it over both shoulders. Limit the backpack weight to less than 10% of body weight.
Jan 1 2020
Winter envelops us in darkness, much like a fetus is enveloped in its mother’s womb. It is a time of stillness, of waiting. The Water Element corresponds to the season of winter.
During this time of descending temperatures, shorter days and long nights, our friends in both the animal and plant kingdoms slow down to stillness. Snow covers the earth, replenishing her resources. Winter is a time of hibernation, when we gather our resources and prepare for the transitions of death and birth.
In previous articles, we have explored each of the five elements. The Wood Element corresponds to spring, when many animals give birth. Wood symbolizes the explosive growth that occurs in childhood. The Fire Element corresponds to summer, the season when humans enter adolescence and reach sexual maturity. The Earth Element corresponds to late summer when crops ripen and our energies are focused upon nurturing our families and developing our communities. The Metal Element corresponds to the autumn when the leaves first dazzle us with color before turning brown, falling to the ground and decaying. Metal symbolizes the challenge we face as we age – to let go of what is no longer needed and celebrate life’s mysteries and treasures.
In Chinese medicine, the Water Element is the final element in the cycle of change. Fear is the emotion that corresponds to winter and the Water Element. Western culture views fear as having no purpose or value. Fear is considered a negative emotion that exists only to be overcome.
We have a choice: We can run from our fears or we can face them. With courage, fear can be transformational, helping us to let go of what is no longer needed and prepare for the next stage in our lives.
What is it that you fear most in life? Often we are afraid of losing family members, friends or possessions. Sometimes we fear the loss of our physical or mental health. Many of us are afraid of death.
Humans often resist change. We want things to stay just as they are, although they never do. With each passing decade, we inevitably experience loss and concurrent change. It’s just part of life’s curriculum.
Stillness, like fear, is not embraced by modern western culture. We tend to ignore winter’s natural rhythms while staying busy and keeping our minds occupied.
We are tuned to our work and school schedules, rising early in the AM to arrive at an artificially set time. Our days are spent focused on accomplishing goals and performing tasks. When the darkness of evening falls, we turn on our electric lights, smart phones, computers and televisions.
The stillness of winter is inherently a time of reflection. By not “doing,” we have an opportunity to restore, recoup and return to our essence.
Stillness is often associated with fear, loss and death. Why do we fear death? And why is fear considered to be a negative emotion? Perhaps we fear moving into the unknown. Perhaps we resist uncertainty and change.
Winter is a wonderful opportunity to explore both stillness and fear. Consider tuning into the natural rhythm of the sun, rising later and going to bed earlier on the weekends. Spend time pursuing quiet inside your home. Witness the the inner quiet and stillness in nature.
Explore your fear. Is there something you are holding onto that isn’t really serving you? See if you can let it go. The stillness of winter and the Water Element turns us inward. Introspection has the potential to bring us closer to our soul.
In Chinese medicine, Water element is responsible for storage and management of our vital resources. Adequate reserves of water provides us with the fluidity to explore our thoughts, survey the possibilities and gives us the resources necessary to make change. The Water Element is also responsible for separating out our impurities and riding the body of these wastes.
The meridians that correspond with the Water Element are the kidney and urinary bladder. On the physical level, this element is responsible for maintaining fluid balance throughout the body. Too much fluid and we develop edema or congestive heart failure. Too little water and we become dehydrated or develop toxins and subsequent infectious diseases.
Our relationship to fear is often either of excess or insufficiency. When we have too much fear we become paralyzed. We become unable to move, to act, to do the right thing. When we have too little fear we become reckless. We leap before we look, taking unnecessary risks, flirting with danger.
In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are the home of the ancestral chi or in western terms, our genetic inheritance. Qi forms the energetic underpinnings of all life and is stored in the kidneys. While it is easy to “overspend” our energetic resources by doing more than we should, it is much more difficult to restore our Qi.
While the urinary bladder stores fluids and rids the body of waste, the kidneys manage the fluids, keeping them pure and distributing them throughout the system. Acupuncture is uniquely suited to treat water imbalances. Elevated or low blood pressure, low back problems, chronic stress, hyperactivity, paralysis (physical or psychological) and extreme risk-taking are water imbalances.
Additionally, we can cultivate Water element energy each day of our lives by getting adequate exercise, nutrition and rest. The practices of Tai Chi, Chigong and acupuncture are also powerful tools for cultivating our kidney chi and the Water Element.