Oct 30 2019
“Physical stress mirrors emotional suffering, relief from physical constraint markedly affects emotional misery.” – Dr. Ida P. Rolf
The Irish say, the past is not the past. Each of us has a history. We are formed by both our physical and emotional experiences. The important things that happen during our journey leave their mark upon us, and shape our structure. Your unique movement pattern reflects athletic and career choices, psychological and physical health, as well as your genetic predispositions.
We are all moving around our physical limitations. When we recognize someone a block away it is often their movement pattern that distinguishes them first. How we walk and move through life is idiosyncratic. Traumatic injury, such as a physical accident or an emotional wound becomes part of our structure.
Consider an ankle sprain. In response to pain, we hold the ankle rigid. This internal bracing is an unconscious and instinctual – we do it to avoid more pain. In a matter of weeks, the fascia, the fabric of the body that organizes the structure, adapts by shortening. This shortening becomes a part of our structural pattern. The fascial shortening influences our movement patterns and our pattern of organization.
What happens when the ankle sprain heals? The fascial shortening remains and stays with us. Without therapeutic intervention the new pattern often remains with us throughout our life. Our freedom of movement (range of motion) becomes limited by the injury and the internal “repair.”
Psychic injuries are also formative of the structure. We often absorb sexual violence into our physical and emotional bodies. The experiences that we are unable to process become “stuck places” in the structure. Young children who become chronically embarrassed will often go through their lives with their shoulders elevated and rolled in, and their head forward.
This defensive posture actually becomes cemented into the structure. The pectoral and upper trapezius fascia shortens and thickens. We may carry these structural changes throughout our lives. Both the ankle sprain and the embarrassment create chronic holding patterns that influence how we stand, move, feel and think.
It is with great tenacity that we propel ourselves forward into space despite our physical and emotional wounds. Our survival depends on our ability to move. We find inventive and unique movement patterns to compensate for our losses.
These compensations come at a cost. Sometimes, the price we pay is the loss of efficiency. It takes extra energy to stay upright and to move when the body is not well aligned. Sometimes, we pay with the loss of confidence. Emotional trauma becomes lodged in the structure.
Rolfing supports the structure to become better balanced. The Rolfer uses deep pressure to release the chronic shortening in the fascia. As the tensions in the fascial network become more balanced, the structure becomes more upright. The stuck places become “unstuck.”
The implications of releasing these chronic shortenings from old injuries are far reaching. As the body changes and becomes more open, the heart and mind changes too, inevitably.
Rolfers use a ten session format to work progressively through the structure. Each session works on a different part of the body. Our goals include helping you become more vertical and upright, with openness and span. Ultimately, we want to help you become more comfortable in your own skin.
Five Element Acupuncture is also a wonderful tool for addressing old wounds and creating balance within the structure. Each area of chronic holding is present in our energetic field as an energetic block. As the acupuncturist removes each of these blocks, the body and the mind and heart move towards balance. Change within the structure offers great possibility and promise for change within the heart and mind.
Sep 30 2019
Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. David Whyte in conversation with Krista Tippett, 2017
Given a choice, vulnerability is something most of us would choose to avoid. We would prefer not to experience feelings around the loss of a loved one or something we cherish in our lives. We would prefer to always be in charge and in control of our lives and hold onto the things we hold dearest. We have deep seated fears of losing the people and things we love, of being alone and ultimately, we are afraid of death. What is the purpose of vulnerability and of grief that we inevitably experience with loss?
Grief is the emotion that corresponds to autumn and the Metal Element. It has an importance that is often not embraced in our culture.
The Metal Element corresponds to the autumn. As the days become colder, the leaves on the trees dazzle us with their beautiful display of color before they turn brown, fall to the ground and decay. The rains than wash these precious resources into the ground. Nature’s compost prepares the earth for spring. The seasons of growth, maturation, and harvest have come to a close. Autumn is both a time of letting go and a time of inspiration.
What is the role of grief in our lives? When we experience love our hearts are open. Love is a state of grace between a parent and a child, between family members, friends and partners. Our love can also extend into our community, the arts, sports, nature and our connection with the spirit. Love opens us to be inspired.
When we experience loss, the process of grieving has the potential to transform us. Our vulnerability can create an openness in us that can engender growth and change.
We often think that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. This is sometimes true. When we become stuck in a state of grief, we become emotionally constipated; that is, we cannot process our feelings and we become immobile. In contrast, when we are able to process our grief we become empowered and connected to the greater good. Processing grief can strengthen our values and principles.
The Metal element is responsible for the receiving of inspiration and the releasing or letting go of what is no longer needed – expiration.
The meridians that correspond with the Metal Element are the lung and large intestine. In Chinese medicine we like to say, “With our lungs we receive Qi from the heavens.” On a physical level, we breathe in oxygen that is absorbed into our bloodstream through the alveolar membrane, the lining of the lungs. Intuitively, we understand the importance of inspiration. We cannot live without oxygen. Equally important is the letting go of waste. The blood carries carbon dioxide and metabolites to the lungs (alveolar membrane) where they are exhaled into the air.
The Large Intestine collects the body’s waste products and lets them go. When we compare the large intestine to the heart, liver or kidneys, it is seemingly unsophisticated. In fact, the large intestines role of collecting and ridding the body’s waste is critical to our health.
When the lung and large intestine are working well, they help to nourish us with oxygen and rid the body of waste. What happens when things go awry? Asthma, COPD, constipation, diarrhea, and IBS are just some of the maladies we develop when earth is out of balance. Additionally, in Chinese medicine, the skin is considered to be the third lung as we eliminate toxins when we sweat. Dermatitis, acne and eczema are often Metal Element issues.
One of life’s great mysteries is the subtle and transformative nature of these two aspects of breath – inspiration and expiration. A deep inspiration fills us with vitality – Qi. This Qi or breath nourishes our every cell. With each exhalation we let go of what is no longer needed. The exhalation empties the lungs, ridding the body of waste, creating a void or openness. Exhalation clears the palate, opens and prepares us for something new – inspiration.
The Metal element’s cycle of inspiration and exhalation extends beyond the physical. Emotionally, Metal energy embodies our connection to the father. It is our connection to the heavens, to high ideals, to beauty perfection and ultimately, our connection to the spirit. This “fathering” energy is not limited to men with children, rather it is an important aspect of a healthy human being.
We need this sense of heavenly connection as a part of our overall health. Some find this spirit in a house of worship, some find this connection in nature, some find it in the arts. Anxiety and depression are also often related to challenges within the Metal Element.
Being vulnerable and experiencing loss is an essential part of being human. Typically, we become attached to the things we love. If we are not able to process loss and experience our grief, we become emotionally stuck. It is our experience of these darker emotions that transform us and opens us to the unknown. Experiencing grief helps us to become empathetic to the hardships of others.
Acupuncture is uniquely suited to restoring health by harmonizing the energy within the body. The acupuncturist unblocks and balances the flow of chi/energy in the body to help restore our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Acupuncture helps to balance the function of the Metal Element that includes the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. These meridians have a large jurisdiction that includes respiration, the elimination of waste, and also our connection to the spirit.
Clearly, we need more inspiration in the world. Our vision must extend beyond the acquisition of things, power and control. Our values must serve all who are part of this collective, the planet earth.
Aug 16 2019
As tensions build in our world and within our communities, the sentiment, “Every man for himself,” is not uncommon. Aggression is often how this anger and fear are expressed. You can see it on our roadways, in the way in which we drive, and in the political arena, where politics and parties have become so polarized that consensus is rare.
These primitive instincts and behaviors have become dominant in our culture. As our technical prowess grows, the impact of our increasing consumption has taken a toll on the quality of our air, water and climate.
In fact, the vision that must guide us forward is, “We are all in this together!” How do we transition from being self serving individuals into global citizens where each person on this planet matters?
Empathy, the emotion that corresponds to late summer and the Earth Element is in short supply.
The Earth Element corresponds to the late summer season of harvest. The sound of crickets become louder while the nights grow cooler and fruits ripen. If crops are abundant, we reap the benefits and enjoy a rich harvest.
Amidst this abundance we feel safe, secure and fulfilled. During this time of contentment we are supported by Mother Earth and the Earth Element.
The Earth Element grounds, nurtures and regulates our cycles including the rhythm of our breath, heart, appetite, digestion and hormones. Acupuncture can improve these processes that regulate and provide foundation for health and prevent disease.
The meridians that correspond with the Earth Element are the stomach and spleen. In Chinese medicine, the Spleen meridian includes both the spleen and pancreas organs.
These meridians, and their corresponding organs help us to break down the food we eat. Our food contains large molecules including proteins, carbohydrates and fats that are too complex for the body to assimilate. The stomach and spleen break down complex foods into smaller, simpler usable molecules including amino acids, simple sugars and glycerol.
When the stomach and spleen are working well, they help to nourish and support us. What happens when things go awry? Indigestion, reflux, bloating, diabetes, overeating and under eatting are just some of the maladies we develop when earth is out of balance. Additionally, we also now know that the spleen also plays an important role in our immune system.
The Earth element’s nurturing energy extends beyond the physical. Emotionally, Earth energy embodies the irrepressible love of a mother. JR Worsley, who helped bring Five Element Acupuncture to the west defines the Earth’s emotion as sympathy. It is the giving and receiving of compassion, empathy and affection. Earth is about feeling connection. This “mothering” energy is not in any way limited to mothers, rather it is an important aspect of a healthy human being. Anxiety and depression are often related to challenges within the Earth Element.
The Earth Element and the Spleen also correspond to the digestion and synthesis of of information – thought. Our ability to think well is an important part of mental health. The spleen influences our capacity for thinking, studying, concentration, memorizing. ADHD and learning problems are often related to challenges within the Earth Element.
Acupuncture is uniquely suited to restoring health by harmonizing the energy within the body. The acupuncturist unblocks and balances the flow of chi/energy in the body to help restore our physical, emotional and mental well being. Acupuncture helps to balance the function of the earth element, which includes the Stomach and Spleen meridians. These meridians have a large jurisdiction that includes appetite, digestion, hormonal balance, our emotions of sympathy and empathy and also our ability to think and concentrate.
The short supply of empathy in the world is a personal, political and global challenge that needs to be addressed for ourselves, our families, communities and the planet as a whole to prosper. Empathy is as important to our individual and collective well being, as is the Earth Element and Late Summer.
Jul 15 2019
Is there a single recipe for maintaining a healthy spine? Absolutely not! Humans are complex. Each of our bodies have a different history. We come in many shapes and sizes. Some of us are sedentary while others are extreme athletes. Some have desk jobs, others do physical labor. Some have a history of low back problems and some currently suffer from back pain. While we cannot offer one approach that meets everyone’s needs, we can outline some principles for maintaining a healthy back.
Here’s what to do to maintain a healthy back: Stay strong, stay long and stay flexible.
Stay Strong: Develop functional strength. Functional strength helps you to do the activities of your daily life. Functional strength comes from physical activity (walking, running, bicycling, yoga, tai chi) not from lifting weights or working out with machines, which tend to focus on individual muscles. For functional strength, think activity, not exercise.
Functional activities help us to:
Strengthen postural muscles that help to keep us upright.
Increase our aerobic capacity, build stamina and help to strengthen the cardiovascular system.
Strengthen the entire body and enhance our efficiency in work and play.
Stay Long: Maintain a healthy posture in sitting, standing and in all activities. Keeping your body well stacked vertically helps you to move with ease and efficiency. Vertical posture help you keep your length. When our posture becomes stooped, we loose verticality, we lose mobility.
Good sitting posture is critical to maintaining a healthy back. A few key elements to good sitting posture are:
Feet flat on the floor with knees and hips at right angles.
Firm seat base to support upright sitting
Maintain the lumbar lordosis
Break it up. Walk around every 30 minutes.
Avoid sitting in couches, armchairs and beds. They don’t allow you to sit upright and maintain your lumbar lordosis.
Stay Flexible: When we are born, our bodies are highly flexible. As we age, we tend to become progressively stiffer. The lumbar spine has three basic movements:
1. Flexion, or the ability to bend forward.
2. Extension or the ability to bend backward.
3. Lateral flexion or side bending (rotation is part of this movement.)
Why is flexibility important to spinal health? Our lives are filled with normal activities that require full mobility in our backs. When you lose spinal mobility (flexion, extension or lateral flexion) and try to perform normal activities, back pain is produced from the overstretch of spinal ligaments.
Here’s what not to do:
Avoid crunches and leg lifts. Both shorten the hip flexor (psoas) and rectus abdominis muscles. The psoas attaches to the lumbar spine. When it shortens, the mechanics of the spine are distorted. Shortening the rectus abdominis shortens the waistline and also distorts the mechanics of the spine.
At Frome Physical Therapy, over half of our patients come to us with a low back or neck problem. Treatment begins with a thorough Physical Therapy evaluation which reveals the history and nature of your particular back problem and how it developed. A custom tailored treatment program that often includes Five Element Acupuncture, Rolfing and specific exercises that draw from the Physical Therapy, yoga and chi gong traditions.
The contents in this article are not meant to be diagnostic or prescriptive. Back problems are often complex, and a physician should always be consulted before choosing a course of treatment.
Jun 14 2019
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
Summer is the time of maturation, joy, love and sexuality. What does summer have to do with joy, love and sexuality? In five element acupuncture, summer is symbolized by the fire element. Previously, we explored spring and the wood element. Wood corresponds to birth and the explosive growth that occurs in childhood. Fire corresponds to summer. In this season, humans enter adolescence.
Just as the warmth of the summer sun brings plants to flower and maturity, in early adulthood, humans blossom reaching full growth and sexual maturity. During this period of our lives, we begin to experience passion, romance, sexuality and relationships deepen. We seek to share, connect and communicate. When fire is balanced, we experience intimacy and joy.
As a practitioner of Five Element Acupuncture I often find people have confusion about joy, love and sexuality. These important expressions of the fire element play a vital role in our overall health.
Each of the five elements corresponds to a season and an emotion. Fire is one of the five elements that relates to summer and also to the emotion joy. An excess or deficit of fire adversely affects the health of an individual and shows a fire imbalance. The Five Element Acupuncturist looks for and treats the source of this imbalance.
The Chinese say, emotions should change like weather. Each of the five emotions – anger, joy, sympathy, sadness and fear are important to our health. Each emotion has upsides and downsides. Ideally, each emotion is a note within a song. Getting stuck on one note or emotion is problematic. Too much or too little of any emotion is a sign of imbalance.
The fire within us can roar and become out of control. It can also lose its strength and leave us cold. When fire is excessive, people often feel agitated and irritable. Energetically, they may become hyper-active and manic. Too much fire makes it difficult to communicate and connect with the important people in our lives. Excessive fire makes it difficult to commit to one person or focus our energy on one activity.
When fire is weak, we have difficulty communicating, connecting and expressing ourselves. Emotionally, we can become cool and distant. Happiness, joy and pleasure may be unavailable to us.
Sexual intimacy is also an expression of our fire energy. When fire is excessive, people are often promiscuous and hyper sexual. When fire is inadequate we become cold and sexually unavailable. Neither of these alternatives is good. Ideally, when fire is balanced we have close relationships that open our hearts. In this balance, sexuality can be an important celebration of joy and love.
When fire is balanced, we can enjoy intimacy, in many realms. The love of our neighbors, friends, family, partners, pets, plants, the earth, and of ourselves can be an expression of balanced fire.
Caring is an expression of love. When our hearts are open, connection to another becomes possible. Like a garden, we cultivate relationships where joy and love can grow.
Love requires vulnerability. Sometimes love can be painful, sometimes love is joyous. When the fire element is balanced we are able to use discernment and choose the appropriate times for our hearts to be open.
Joy is a state of grace where we feel at one with ourselves, another, or the cosmos. In joy we feel connection – we become part of a greater whole.
Laughter is the sound that corresponds to the fire element. When our fire energy is balanced, laughter is an expression of joy and happiness.
The meridians associated with summer and the fire element are the heart, small intestine, heart protector and triple heater. Each meridian plays an important role in maintaining our overall health.
For the purpose of this article I will share about the heart official/meridian. Physically the heart pumps blood throughout our bodies delivers oxygen, warmth and nutrients needed to sustain us. JR Worsley, the founder of five element acupuncture say the heart official as the emperor of the kingdom. When all of the meridians are working well together the heart rules with beneficence. With gentle warmth and radiance, the kingdom, which includes our entire organism and the twelve meridians, functions in cooperation and harmony. If any of the meridians/organs are not performing well, the heart attempts to compensate for the short coming and pick up the slack. Over time, the heart becomes weary and the added work places a strain on the heart.
It is easy to forget that we are living organisms just as much affected by the season, weather and time of the day as other animals and plants are. We breathe, evolve and fight for survival just as other creatures and life forms do. Five Element Acupuncture utilizes our connection with nature in treatment. The inherent role that seasons play in our health is considered when diagnosing and treating mental and physical maladies.
In five element acupuncture, we carefully observe the dao or the natural forces of nature that affect all living things. We often forget that humans, while having extraordinary mental capacities are living breathing organisms that are deeply affected by the natural world. Each season plays an important role in our health and development.
The focus of the treatment is to restore a smooth flow of chi or energy in the body. Illness or injury often create energetic blocks, where energy becomes stuck and does not flow freely. The FEA must first remove these blocks for recovery to occur. Next, we support your unique constitution to help you on your life’s path.
You may ask why this article is titled, “Enough Love.” Spiritually, our caring and connection can extend to our family, friends, neighbors and ultimately, the universe. Our planet has grown smaller and our reach has grown larger. We have reached a critical moment in our evolution as a species. Our future is dependent on our ability to share the earth’s limited resources and care for all of the earth’s inhabitants. I believe that compassion is born of love and is one of the key components for the transformation of our planet. And yes, there is enough love in the world!