May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free.

I spent ten days in Mexico last month as part of my hibernation month, and everyday from 7-9am I went outside to do Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and sitting meditation.  After some days, I opened to a new experience or level of doing Tai Chi that is gratifying.  I made subtle, mechanical changes in my footwork that led to energy shifts which are subtle but oh-so-deep.  These practices definitely shift, adjust, and attune our energies in beneficial ways.  I am so grateful for these practices and love sharing them with my students in my Qi Gong and Tai Chi classes. Even after 20 years of practice, I continue to learn and grow in my practice.  I’ve introduced a new aspect to my Qi Gong classes to include teaching how to discover, cultivate, and direct “qi”. It’s interesting, fun, and valuable.

May you soak in the beauty of winter and bear up (joke) well with her many challenges!

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BMI – Is it all it’s STACKED up to be?

‘Tis now the season that many of us want (and need) to lose weight.  We have survived the season of overindulgences and are looking forward to the New Year resolved to be better!  The current lingo used to determine if you’re overweight is “BMI” or Body Mass Index.  I was looking at a professional newspaper this morning and saw reference to a study showing the absurdity of it all……..

BMI is considered to reflect “body fatness.” It is a dry calculation that looks at only height and weight:

Formula:        [weight (lb) / [height (in)]2   x   703

Normal for adults is considered between 18 and 24.9, overweight between 25 and 29.9, and obese over 30.  For children, the interpretation does take into account age and sex.  It was originally used as a population statistic used to compare groups of people.  More info at:  http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html

However we all know that 2 people at 5’9″ can look very different.  Big boned, muscular athletes can weigh the same as a flabby couch potato.  Nowhere does the formula consider how “healthy” you are.  Do you exercise?  Do you eat fast food 2-3 times a day?  Are you a vibrant 85 year old who has already proven resilient to the stresses of daily living?

Still, many studies have shown that being overweight increase your risks – both of suffering from a disease or actually dying from it  The good news is that this study showed that those that were obese with a BMI of 30 to 34.9 had their risk rise to 1.44., not a HUGE increase in risk!!!  In other words, all is NOT lost. [Details of the study, if you are interested, are that this study looked at other studies (metanalysis), focused on healthy, non-smoking White adults, and was published by the NIH in Dec 2nd issue of NE Journal of Medicine.]

While I think that the obesity epidemic is a serious Healthcare crisis in this country, I think it’s far more important for each of us to look at our picture individually and figure out what works best for us.  The only way to lose weight is to eat less than you burn up each day.  Of critical importance is the quality and value of everything that we put into our bodies.  Look at each bite, each morsel, each calorie……is the cost worth the pleasure you will get from that stale holiday cookie?

Rather than a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, let’s resolve to get healthy!

Posted in Nutrition | 2 Comments

Good News for the New Year: You Can Do It!

Have you given up on your New Year’s Resolutions? Is your will power weaker than a pile of limp lettuce? We all know it takes more than good intentions to break a bad habit or achieve an ambitious goal. It takes determination to resist a temptation, and it takes persistence to achieve a goal.

But what if you just can’t muster the willpower to realize your goals? Is there any hope for a weak will? Americans are very fond of inspirational and self-help books. But in traditional Chinese medicine, the solution is based on body energy; it takes strong kidney qi to achieve long-term goals.

If you’ve been trying to make a change in your life without success, you might be suffering from a kidney deficiency. This is not a kidney disease in the sense of biomedical medicine: it’s an energy imbalance associated with the kidneys. When the kidneys are weak, a person will lack drive and initiative, and will be easily discouraged.

Kidney energy weakens with age, which can make it harder to convert good intentions into real change as we get older. An acupuncturist can check kidney energy during pulse diagnosis, and the strongest kidney pulses are usually found in younger patients. Some clinical symptoms associated with weak kidney qi include lower back pain, poor short-term memory, prematurely gray hair, incontinence, cravings for salty foods, a low libido, diarrhea first thing in the morning, asthma, urinary tract infections, cold hands or feet, a preference for warm clothes, and a tendency to be easily startled.

A routine kidney deficiency can be treated with acupuncture and moxibustion. For more severe cases, a Chinese herbal formula will be more effective. Almost everyone can benefit from a kidney tonification treatment–it is just not possible to have too much kidney qi. So… If you are getting acupuncture for some other condition, feel free to mention your New Year’s resolutions–simple steps can be taken to strengthen your kidney qi alongside your usual treatment goals.

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The Herb Corner: Cilantro

This herb confused me for the longest time. It was always written as “cilantro/coriander” and when I asked for cilantro at the store, I was handed a spice jar of coriander seeds and told that it was the same thing. The truth of the matter is that cilantro is the stem and leaves of the coriander plant. (Actually, cilantro leaves resemble Italian flat-leaf parsley.) When the plant produces seeds, these are “coriander seeds” which can be left whole or ground into a powder and are often used in sweets, breads and cakes and to flavor liqueurs. The coriander plant is probably one of the first herbs to be used by mankind, perhaps going as far back as 5000 BC.

Cilantro was made popular when salsas come into vogue in the 80’s. Personally, I have grown fond of cilantro even though I do not eat a lot of salsas. I find cilantro to have a fresh taste with a hint of citrus, although many people may define its taste as slightly peppery. Either way, don’t be afraid to try this delightful and flavorful herb!

You can combine cilantro with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) for flavored cooking oil. This would be a good additive to use in your food if you have a heat condition in a meridian, as cilantro is a “cooling” herb.

Cilantro is native to the Mediterranean yet it has found its way into recipes all over the world. In Mexico and the Southwest, cilantro is vital and used in everything from salsas, soups, and salads to burritos or meat dishes. Try mixing chopped cilantro into sour cream and use it as a topping for chili, tacos, or enchiladas.

Cilantro is also traditionally used in Middle Eastern, Caribbean and Asian cooking as well. For an Asian flavor, sprinkle cilantro leaves over stir-fried vegetables. In the Middle East, cilantro leaves are used in pickles, curries and chutneys. Try using fresh cilantro leaves in salads, omelettes and soups. It is also good with cooked beans, rice, fish and poultry.

Cilantro loses its flavor when dried. However, bunches of cilantro are now available to us in the produce section of supermarkets all year. Choose your cilantro the same way you choose your parsley: young fresh looking leaves. Avoid any bunch that has begun to wilt or shows any discoloration. To store a fresh bunch of cilantro (with the stems), place the bunch in a jar with water like you would a bunch of flowers. Cover the bunch with a plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator. Change the water every two days or so eliminating any wilted leaves in the process. Rinse the leaves before use.

Steeped as a tea, cilantro has soothing properties for the stomach. It is an appetite stimulant and aids in the secretion of gastric juices. The essential oils of the cilantro leaves contain antibacterial properties and can be used as a fungicide. In the U.S. coriander has been studied for its cholesterol-lowering properties. Coriander is a good source of dietary fiber and a good source of iron, magnesium and manganese.

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Thai Pumpkin Soup

By Popular Request….
 A number of people who attended our Health Fair on November 6 requested the recipe for the Thai Pumpkin Soup we served. Many thanks to Dolores Tamulen for making it that day… and for sharing the recipe with us!

THAI PUMPKIN SOUP (6-8 servings)

2 16-ounce cans vegetable broth
2 15-ounce cans pumpkin
12 ounces mango nectar
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons minced green onions
1 teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed

1. Combine the first three ingredients in a large pot and bring to bowl. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for another 30 minutes. While this can be served immediately, Dolores says the flavors intensify if you let it cool, then refrigerate it overnight.

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Promoting Relaxation and Healing with Ear Coning

Ear coning (also known as “candling”) has been practiced by many ancient cultures for at least 3500 years. It uses warm herbal smoke to comfortably and gently stimulate the area just inside the ear canal and is wonderfully relaxing!

The warmth generated can warm excess earwax in the ear canal, making it easier for the body to eliminate the wax on its own. The healing smoke has been used for centuries to ease earaches. Coning is said to stimulate the circulation in the ear and upper lymph system, positively affect the sinus cavities, and assist the body’s natural healing abilities.

Cones — typically made of beeswax or paraffin and cotton — are approximately 25” long, with the larger end of the cone roughly the circumference of a nickel. The opposite end is smaller, about the size of a Q-tip.

Before placing the small end of the candle in the ear, the large end of the cone is lit with a match. The resulting smoke travels through the cone and out the opposite end. The small end of the cone is then gently placed into the ear. A vacuum is created, and the smoke travels down into the ear, causing a gentle warming stimulation of the ear canal.

After an ear coning, the ears may be slightly vulnerable and should be protected. A cotton ball placed gently in the ears can provide protection from wind and cold. For swimmers, I recommend ear protection for at least three days after an ear coning treatment.

My ear coning treatment typically includes a wonderful scalp massage. The entire process takes about an hour. It’s wonderfully relaxing and non-invasive. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Note: Ear coning is not recommended if you have artificial eardrums, tubes in your ears, a punctured or perforated eardrum, or have had recent ear, nose, throat or sinus surgery.

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Using Your (Whole!) Mind for Change

Along with the New Year comes great resolve. For you, that resolve may be to exercise more, stop procrastinating, quit smoking, feel less stressed, or lose that spare tire around your middle.

Too often, we approach change armed with a tremendous amount of will power, only to be undone by the comfort of a familiar routine or the feelings brought on by a bad day at work.

Most real change relies on the alignment of the conscious mind (the logical part of you that brings will power to the mix) with your subconscious (the part of you where habits and emotions lie). When your conscious and subconscious work together, great things can happen!

One of the most effective ways to enlist the power of your subconscious in achieving your goals is through hypnosis. With hypnosis, the conscious part of your mind quiets (it’s still present, it just isn’t front and center). This allows more direct communication with your subconscious, using the language of imagination.

This year, engage BOTH parts of your mind as you prepare for change! Ask us how hypnosis can help.

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A Dietary and Lifestyle Approach to Balance and Wellness

Originally published by Maureen Landry, RN

Ayerveda translated means “The Science of Life” and is the mother of modern medicine. This science has been practiced in India for over 5,000 years. It teaches us how to live in balance with oneself and nature, relating Mind, Body and Spirit as a foundation to health and wellness. Ayurveda is a sister science to Yoga, both a union of health and healing.

In this practice, the client takes an active role in their own health, with emphasis on lifestyle changes and balance in daily rhythms. Nature loves balance. Ayurveda promotes digestive wellness and elimination.

To learn more about Ayurveda and your particular biological constitution according to Ayurvedic teachings, Maureen Landry is available here at the Center for individual consultations.

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Questions and Answers about Traditonal Thai Yoga Massage

Originally published by Joshua Tenpenny, LCMT

What is Thai Yoga Massage?

Known as Nuat Boran in Thailand (literally “ancient massage”), this unique form of bodywork is often known in modern America as Thai Yoga Massage because of its connection to Ayurvedic and Yogic healthcare practices. While we usually think of “massage” as kneading and rubbing tense muscles, Thai massage focuses more on stretching and pressing the body to create freedom of movement and balance the body’s energy. These stretching movements have an effect similar to hatha yoga practice. Because the client relaxes as the therapist manipulates and stretches their body, it is sometimes referred to as passive yoga or “yoga for lazy people.”

Where did it come from?

Thai Yoga Massage traces its roots back to Dr. Jivaka Kumarbhaccha, the head physician for the original Sangha community of Buddhist monks over 2500 years ago. As it made its way to Thailand, the Ayurvedic techniques and principles gradually became influenced by traditional Chinese medicine.

What are the benefits of Thai massage?

By increasing flexibility and releasing tension, Thai massage helps the body’s natural energy to flow more freely. Work is done along energetic channels, which are called Sen lines in Thai medicine. This has a beneficial effect on a person’s overall health and can help to correct energetic imbalances associated with chronic health conditions. The techniques used in Thai massage open up the joints, creating a feeling of ease and spaciousness in a person’s movement.

What can I expect during a session?

Thai massage is traditionally performed on a mat on the floor. No oil or lotion is used. During the session, the client remains fully dressed except for shoes, so clothing should be light and allow for flexible movement. The therapist uses their whole body in giving a treatment – hands, elbows, forearms, feet, and knees – allowing for much more effective leverage and support than is possible when working on a table. Techniques rely on the therapist using gravity and leverage rather than muscular strength, creating a smooth and flowing transmission of energy. While advanced techniques required a high degree of flexibility from both the client and the therapist, Thai massage is appropriate for individuals of all levels of fitness, and modifications can always be made to accommodate any client’s natural range of motion.

What do I do during a treatment?

Be as relaxed as possible. Clients often try to “help” the therapist by moving themselves through the techniques as if it were calisthenics. It can be surprisingly challenging to simply relax and allow your body to passively be moved, but this will give the greatest benefit in the treatment. Do not hold your breath during the stretches. Breathe slowly and naturally, deep into your belly. Try to be present with the treatment, and aware of the sensations in your body. If any of the techniques are uncomfortable for you, please let your therapist know.

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Welcome, Ana Bennett!

We are happy to welcome Ana Bennett to Dr. Smith & Associates. Ana is a practitioner of a gentle manual therapy called Cranial Sacral Therapy.

Cranial Sacral Therapy uses a subtle rhythm of the body called the cranio-sacral mechanism to relieve the stresses and strains that have accumulated in the body. By using very gentle pressure, Ana can work with the cranio-sacral mechanism to help bring about a more normal and balanced motion through joints and their surrounding tissues.

Ana trained in England with a four-year, full-time course in osteopathy, and was in private practice in London for fifteen years.

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