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A book I recommend: Healing with Whole Foods

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I often get asked about my favorite health and healing books on one subject or another and want to start sharing that information on this blog.

You see, I am skilled and capable at many things, however, I am only officially certified at a few:  I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in East European and Soviet Studies and Russian and I am a certified Dragon's Way and Breast Health Qigong instructor through the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation in New York City (I am sure the connection between the two is obvious to everyone).   In addition to the experience that comes from being the mother of seven children, much of what I know comes from wonderful, amazing books and the experts who write them.

As a young mother, non-fiction books became 'my thing' when I had little time for anything but the facts.  Through the years, I have become so passionate about learning everything I could about health and healing that my daughters, who love fiction, gave me an acclaimed fiction book for Christmas in hopes of me "expanding my horizon". (I have to confess I have started reading the book but haven't finished it but I have promised that I will).

My dream is to go to graduate school to study natural healing.  Perhaps when I do, one day I can become such an expert.  Until then, I will continue reading exceptional books which greatly help me and my family like Paul Pitchford's book Healing with Whole Foods:  Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition.

Paul Pitchford provides an excellent reference guide to the theory and healing power of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with his book Healing with Whole Foods:  Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition.  Today we are bombarded with confusing and conflicting information about how and what to eat.  It is difficult to know what the best choices really are.  I like Pitchford’s clear explanations about nutrition from the TCM perspective while simultaneously taking into consideration the modern nutritional model. He explains how our bodies became imbalanced eating certain foods and how they can become re-balanced once again by eating in a thoughtful, balanced way.

I find the sections which focus on specific foods particularly helpful.  For example, knowing that celery has a cooling thermal nature is helpful to the stomach, spleen & pancreas, calms an aggravated liver, helps with eye inflammation, burning urine, blood in the urine, acne and canker sores is extremely beneficial to those suffering with these conditions (p. 539).  Celery is inexpensive and easily accessible at any grocery store.  No prescription required.  The recipes and food preparation tips are a welcome bonus.  Food is often our most helpful ‘medicine’ and most powerful healer.  This is something we must not forget. I highly recommend this book!


Exploring Asian Health Exercises at the Southern Saratoga YMCA

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I am excited to attend  a special workshop being held at the Southern Saratoga YMCA on January 21st from 2:30 - 4:30 pm called Exploring Asian Health Exercises.  Taught by Sal Casano, Certified Tai Chi/Qigong Instructor and Veronica Casano, Reiki Master,  this workshop will offer the following sampling of Asian healing traditions:

Tai Chi Chi: A movement exercise focusing on balance and circulation of chi or internal energy.

Crane Animal Qigong: A beautiful set of graceful movements based on the movements of the crane. These movements connect the mind, body and breath.

Sitting/Standing Meditation: Smile and follow your breath as you experience visualizations designed to promote a peaceful and relaxing mind-body connection.

Exercises/Massage Techniques for the Hands: Exercises to increase circulation (important during the winter months). Massage to soothe and relax the tendons, muscles and joints in the hands.

This is a fundraiser for the YMCA's Reach Out to Youth Scholarship program which allows children and families across the Capital District, who otherwise would not be able to afford YMCA programs and services, to participate fully.  The cost is $30.

For more information, please contact Lori Donato at (518) 371-2139 x5532 or by email at LDonato@cdymca.org.


You're invited

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ride in the Year of the Dragon with a Qigong Group Energy Practice

Attend our open house in Clifton Park, New York or join the practice remotely

Abundant life force or Qi is one of the most essential qualities to anyone's health and well-being. Use the power of the Dragon to start your year in a positive way by building your energy foundation with our Year of the Dragon group energy practice.

On Monday, January 23, 2012, at 7:30 p.m., Eastern Time, join us for this energy-enhancing nationwide group Qigong practice. The Dragon Stands between Heaven and Earth is just one of ten Qigong postures from our innovative Dragon's Way program. On this special evening, people from all around the country will stand in this posture and unite their energies at the very same moment to create a powerful energy field. The posture helps you connect to the Universal energy source, and the collective intentions of all the participants magnify the energy available -- energy you can use for your own healing.
You can join the lunar New Year celebration in one of two ways:

1.  Andrea Smith will be hosting a Year of the Dragon Open House at A Peaceful Place Massage and Wellness Center on Monday, January 23rd at 7 pm where she'll hold the group Dragon practice in the Capital region and teach a short introductory workshop on the healing power of Qi.

2. If you aren't able to attend the open house and group practice, you can still tap into this unique energy frequency by practicing remotely at home or with friends. 

Have a Happy and Healthy Year of the Dragon!

On January 23rd, the lunar new year, the Year of the Dragon enters. In China, the Dragon is considered a powerful being with miraculous healing powers. Use the Dragon's energy this year to support your healing goals.


November 5th Breast Health Qigong class

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Last week I taught my Breast Health Qigong class to an amazing group of ladies at the Greater Glenville YMCA.  This Saturday I am teaching the same workshop at the Schenectady YMCA from 10 - 11:30 am.  I hope you will come!


My thoughts do create my reality (and it's not always good)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I do believe that our thoughts create our reality.    For me, I usually try to make my thoughts positive in order to ensure a more positive outcome.   Last night when I was tired, I forgot that negative thoughts creative negative outcomes.  Today I was clearly reminded that they do.

What happened at our house was this:  after attending their weekly Scouts and church youth activities, the children arrived home late.  The minute the two younger boys walked in the door from the Church, I was on their case to hurry to bed but they did not.  It took them far too long to get in gear and get to bed.  This mother was not pleased.  She kept repeating, “If you don’t hurry up, you will be grouchy in the morning and I don't want a rotten morning.”   After a late bedtime on Halloween the night before, the boys went to bed REALLY late, for the second night in a row and I just knew what was in store.

What happened in the morning?  A self-fulfilling prophecy:  both boys were grouchy just like I expected them to be and this translated into one of our most difficult mornings of the school year.  I was frustrated, they were frustrated.  One child left for school refusing to eat his breakfast and the other refusing to take his band instrument to school for his weekly music lesson.  As for me, I did not handle the whole thing well at all (I was tired too!).

After the bus picked them up and drove away, I realized that what showed up for me was exactly what I expected: a frustrating morning.   But I got the lesson that showed up with the challenges.  I recognized the smack on the head, the reminder that I could have created something different.  It was good lesson for me.  Tomorrow will be different, better.  I am so glad I can go to sleep tonight and start again tomorrow.   There is great hope in that rising sun, that fresh start and that chance to create something better.  Blessed be the new day.


What time does it hurt?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Have you ever wondered why you get a headache, a food craving, a cramp in your legs, sudden fatigue or some other health challenge at the same time every day?  When I was in college, I noticed myself becoming exhausted every day after lunch.  Not being a caffeine drinker - not coffee nor cola drinks - I have to admit that I used to be envious of my fellow students who, with a large Starbucks in hand, stayed perky through the most boring lecture while I dozed in the corner.  As a stay at home mother, I found myself craving chocolate every afternoon between 4 and 5 pm and kept a chocolate stash in the back of my cupboard to appease my sweet tooth.

What I did not understand then but am grateful I understand now is that these warning lights - the fatigue and the food cravings - were my body's way of telling me that I was out of balance.  I did not recognize these signals for what they were:  an opportunity to help myself find a healthier way to bring my body into balance.  

Dr. Nan Lu explains it this way in his book Traditional Chinese Medicine -  A Natural Guide to Weight Loss that Lasts:  "TCM theory states that Universal Qi changes every two hours.  The Qi in your organs also changes every two hours.  Like a giant gear, if your body's Qi cannot match or mesh with Universal Qi changes, then many different kinds of physical discomforts will develop.  TCM recognizes these conditions as biorhythm disorders.  For example, Qi changes start with the lung, which is "on duty" or in charge of the body, from 3 - 5 am.  If your lung's Qi has a prob em, then you might find yourself waking up during this two-hour window.  Or, you might wake up with a physical problem like  a cough during these hours."  (p. 71) 
These are the two-hour blocks of time when each organ's Qi is in charge.

Lung                           3 - 5 am
Large Intestine          5 - 7am
Stomach                    7 - 9am
Spleen                       9 - 11 am
Heart                          11 am - 1 pm
Small Intestine          1 - 3 pm
Bladder                      3 - 5 pm
Kidney                        5 - 7 pm
Pericardium               7 - 9 pm
Triple Burner              9 - 11 pm
Gall Bladder               11 pm - 1 am
Liver                           1 - 3 am

Now that I know this, I understand why I am sleepy after lunch.   Instead of having an afternoon nap, I realize my body needs Qi to feel balanced and my time would be better spent practicing Qigong.  I can also do the same when I feel a food craving hit me.   I realize now that the signal my body is sending me is to increase my Qi.  Whenever I do, I feel so much better. I am not fatigued and I don't crave anything.   What a great change this is for me!! I love Qigong.  


Balance is a good thing

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

One of the foundational tenants of Traditional Chinese Medicine is the idea of balance.  TCM believes that our bodies work better when they are in balance and harmony.  The purpose of The Dragon's Way program is to use Wu Ming Qigong to cultivate Qi and facilitate its even flow throughout the body, thus bringing the body back into a state of balance and harmony.   Once this happens, the body's self-healing mechanisms can function optimally allowing for weight to be lost, a full night's sleep restored, peace and calm to become the norm.

The value of maintaining balance isn't difficult for us to understand.  Our empirical understanding of balance began when as infants we tried to sit and later attempted to stand.  As toddlers, walking was all about balance, as it was when we learned to ride a bike.  Sitting, standing, walking and riding a bike all were accomplished when we could find the point of balance and had the strength to maintain that balance.

As teenagers, finding an emotional balance became the challenge.  With hormones raging for both girls and boys, often times the swing from happy to sad to melancholy to jubilant was pronounced and noticeable.  Our college years gave us further opportunity to be imbalanced as we exercised our new found freedom to make choices about how much we slept, ate, exercised, studied and played.  Certainly collegiate success depending upon finding a balance.

As adults, perhaps balance has become all together illusive as we rush from one busy thing to the next doing all our 'have to dos' and 'should dos'.  The expectations we place upon ourselves to be 'super' in everything we do often leaves us emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally spent.  Without a doubt, we are living our lives completely out of balance but don't know to live any differently.  Imbalance is all we know.

What can we do differently?  Slow down, for one thing.  I know, it is a difficult concept to fathom when we find great accomplishment and, often times, our self-esteem when we are being productive and being seen to be such.  Breathe, for another.  Yes, a slow deep relaxing breath.  In his book The Healer Within, Dr. Roger Jahnke describes how to take the 'essential breath' which will immediately help to activate the self-healing mechanisms of our body:

"It is typical for people to become accustomed to breathing in a shallow way.  While our typical breathing allows for survival, it does not increase vitality or accelerate healing.

"First, adjust your posture so that your lungs, as well as your chest and abdomen, can expand freely.  This is best accomplished by standing or sitting erect.  You may also do this practice lying down.  Breathe in through the nose, filling the lower portion of the lungs first.  This will cause your abdomen to expand as the diaphragm drops down and compresses the internal organs.  Then allow the upper lobes of your lungs to fill.  This expands the ribs and chest cavity.  You will feel a tremendous sense of satisfaction when your lungs are completely full.  Then exhale slowly through the nose.  Repeat."  

In his book Traditional Chinese Medicine:  A Natural Guide to Weight Loss That Lasts, Dr. Nan Lu suggests that sitting quietly and gently breathing can go a long way to alleviating stress and imbalance in our busy lives.

"Start your day at work by sitting quietly with your eyes closed for two to five minutes before you do anything.  If you become nervous or stressed, take two to five minutes again to do the same thing.  Just sit quietly with your eyes closed.  Notice the difference this simple action makes."

Deciding to quiet your mind using the abdominal breath and closed eyes can become a habit when you plan for it in your daily routine.  Consider taking two minutes to do so when you get into your car to drive to work or pull into your parking stall when you arrive at the office, before you turn on the computer, when you sit down to eat your lunch, or before your brush your teeth at night.  Dr Lu calls this 'stealing some time for yourself'.  Give yourself permission to step back from the abyss of stress that is trying to pull you under and keeping you imbalanced.  Choose balance.  Choose to slow down and breathe.

How does this apply to me?  With five children at home and a busy family life, I find maintaining a balance in my life to requires concerted effort.   Practicing Qigong daily helps me a great deal to feel clear headed and energetic, optimistic and even tempered.  Slow, relaxed breathing is something I am trying to incorporate into my daily routine, whenever I remember, so I can utilize the breath to relax, refocus and maintain the flow of Qi.

In regards to this blog, I am finally feeling balanced enough in my life to start posting regularly.  It just isn't something that has felt do-able for a long time.   I hope I can share things I have learned that will help you find greater balance and thereby health and happiness in your life.  My goals is to also invite guest bloggers to share their perspective on gentle healing.  Please feel free to comment and lend your perspective to the conversation.  There is much we can learn from each other.

Peace to you,

Whoever can swallow the breath
like the tortoise
or pull the breath in and circulate it
like the tiger
or guide and refine the breath
like the dragon,
shall live a long and healthy life.

Master Ge Heng
2nd Century China


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