This month I find myself reflecting on this past year and compelled to write a small personal reflection. It has been almost one year since I had a baby! This last year has been filled to the brim with change and a new kind of adventure. Last year at the end of August I closed down my practice for a few months to become a mother, the largest transformation I've yet done in this life. This parallels the energy present in the late summer which is the energy of harvesting that which we sow. The birth of a child is a very obvious manifestation of this concept, but in life we are constantly planting seeds for other things, such as ideas, events, personal growth goals and more.
Then in November I moved my practice to a new location: Red Cricket Healing Center. This was another long awaited 'harvest' because I waited for about a year for all of the elements to fall into place for the move. It's an exciting new space. In addition to my shiatsu & massage practice we have acupuncture, community acupuncture, yoga classes, tui na and holistic physical therapy all in one building.
Since re-opening my practice I've been working to find that ever elusive work/life balance. And one thing I've learned from Chinese Medicine is that seeking balance is a constant practice in which you add and take away as needed. As I look forward to the coming year I see a slow and steady approach being what's needed. I am putting the bulk of my energy as always into offering high quality, mindful bodywork to you...and realizing that many of the other details of running my practice will fall into place as needed.
Again I am so grateful for all of you. My work is fulfilling and I love doing it. But enough about me, let's reflect on seasonal health and talk a little bit about how Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at wellness this time of year.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE & THE EARTH ELEMENT
In Minnesota we are entering Late Summer, the time of year where balance and abundance prevail. We often begin to slow down from the busy pace of early in the season and relax into the lazy days of summer. This time of year is associated in Traditional Chinese Medicine with the Earth Element.
Chinese Medicine is all about function. It gives us context for our experiences and offers a tangible path towards balance. If someone is having trouble concentrating, reaping the metaphorical harvests in their life or feeling a lack of appetite for food or for life in general then Chinese Medicine offers a simple path of daily practices and treatments to help support that. Eating certain foods, receiving Shiatsu and Acupuncture, and meditating and/or exercising can really help.
There are Five Elements in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Water, Wood, Fire, Earth & Metal. The Earth Element represents Late Summer as described below:
"The Earth energy of late summer is the phase and the feeling celebrated in the song 'Summertime, and the living is easy…' It's color is yellow, the color of the sun and earth, and in human anatomy it is associated with the stomach, spleen and pancreas, which lie at the center of the body and nourish the entire system. If Earth energy is deficient, digestion is impaired and the entire organism is thrown off balance owing to insufficient nourishment and vitality." -Daniel Reid, The Complete Book of Chinese Health and Healing
This quote generalizes the essence of the Earth Element. Physically, it brings our attention to digestion and energy levels. Mentally and emotionally it reminds us to look at how we concentrate and think to manifest things in our lives. Nourishment is needed on both physical and emotional levels for us to thrive.
"Viewing the human condition as an extension of nature, Earth energy is needed to bring forth a harvest in our lives. The ability to reach completion is governed by this element, and those who chronically fail to reap what they have sown may have an imbalance here." -Gary Dolowich, M.D., B.Ac., Dipl. Ac, Archetypal Acupuncture
Are you feeling as if you are able to complete what you set out to do? Or are you always starting projects you can't finish? Asking these questions might bring self-awareness to patterns that may be holding you back. By becoming aware you are then empowered to make changes and support better physical, emotional and mental balance.
To sum, there are a number of symptoms that can signify an Earth Element out of balance. These can include: fatigue, lethargy, fogginess, insecurity, worry, feeling ungrounded.
-Susie Carlson, dipl. ABT
Certified Shiatsu & Massage Therapist
As a bodywork therapist, I use both Shiatsu & Massage as part of my practice. They are separate distinct therapies, each with their own set of techniques and theories of treatment. Although they are different, these two types of therapy are extremely complementary. The following short article will help to differentiate each one.
SHIATSU (a japanese style of therapeutic massage)
Shiatsu-Anma, like Acupuncture, is based in part on the theory of Qi. Qi may seem like an abstract or made up concept, but it is something we can feel and experience quite easily during these types of treatments.
Qi theory sounds something like this: Our bodies contain an energy that circulates through the body in predictable and functional patterns and without it we would not be alive. This Vital Energy in our bodies, or Qi, can be moved and affected in many ways. It is an unseen force that is in charge of animating our bodies, moving our emotions, keeping our muscles, limbs and joints mobile and the underlying force beneath every physiological function. We can eat foods, do exercises and meditate to move our Qi. We can get acupuncture or massage. Much like swedish or deep tissue massage manipulates soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments) Shiatsu manipulates Qi.
Shiatsu uses Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory and it's own set of massage techniques to restore balance to the body. It directly affects Qi and also activates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps our body into healing mode. This means it can relieve pain AND treat numerous internal imbalances of the body such as chronic fatigue, headaches, digestive disorders, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, insomnia, menstrual disorders and more. Shiatsu can also treat soft tissue and structural imbalances, a benefit that is emphasized when the therapist has Massage Therapy training. Perhaps most importantly, Shiatsu emphasizes preventative care. Regular treatments stop imbalances before they start.
Because Shiatsu focuses on Qi and pressure can be adjusted to be deep or very light, it is very safe for all people, even those with serious health conditions who may not be able to receive Massage or those with fear of needles who may not be open to trying Acupuncture.
More on Shiatsu here.
MASSAGE (western relaxation and therapeutic massage)
Massage applies an in-depth knowledge of Anatomy along with it's own set of techniques to restore balance to the soft tissue and physical structure of the body. It's ability to get very specific with the location of injuries, muscle adhesions and palpation techniques makes it an excellent choice for treating tendonitis, muscle pain & tension, headaches, trigger points and sprains/strains. It's goal of improving circulation make it well suited for promoting overall health and relaxation. Massage can also treat Qi and energetic imbalances when treatments are performed by a therapist with Shiatsu or TCM training.
Most of us are already pretty familiar with the language of Western Biomedicine which is used in Massage. We know about muscles, tendons, ligaments and the circulatory system, at least by name. Massage moves blood and lymph through the body and into injured regions, speeding up the healing process.
It is good to know that there are certain health conditions that are not safe for massage and a Massage Therapist will screen for these conditions during your initial meeting.
WHY USE BOTH?
Sometimes when we have muscle pain, tendonitis, trigger points or sprains (all of the conditions Massage is so well suited to treat) there is also an underlying energetic imbalance that causes us to be more susceptible to those things. That is where Shiatsu or a knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine comes in. By combining Massage techniques (to more quickly resolve the soft tissue problem) with Shiatsu techniques (to treat the underlying imbalance and kick the parasympathetic nervous system into gear for healing) then we can have the best of both worlds and a very powerful combination. This is the advantage of a session that includes both.
When a therapist is trained in both Shiatsu and Massage, they focus on both Qi and soft tissue at the same time, regardless of whether they are using Shiatsu or Massage techniques. It should be noted that Shiatsu therapists are trained in Anatomy and still treat the physical structure of the body, but use different techniques than Massage Therapists.
Some people respond better or simply prefer one style over the other. Some people like sessions that integrate both styles of Bodywork and others like to alternate between the two. Trying them both is a great way to increase awareness of the body and empower yourself to treat your body in the way that works best for you.
~Susie Carlson, dipl. ABT, Certified Shiatsu & Massage Therapist
Summertime! Well it seems in Minnesota we’ve completely skipped Spring and jumped right into the hot weather of Summer. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been working quickly to adjust to the new way of life, it is so different from Winter and early Spring practices.
Welcome to the season of longer days, lazier afternoons and an increase in energy to match the bustling months to come!
It is likely that you are already eating lighter, more cooling foods and doing things to match this Summer energy (spending time outside, swimming, connecting with friends) These simple changes are what seasonal harmony is all about, and will help promote health for your body and mind.
The Summer season is ruled by the element of Fire and contains the energies of expansion, movement, energy and growth. The emotion related to this season is Joy. The mind and the spirit of the Heart are very important and typically thrive during this time of year. It is a good time to connect with loved ones and actively practice those pursuits that bring us great joy and happiness. When a lack of joy or and overabundance of manic energy is present, then we know it is time for some shiatsu or acupuncture to help bring us back into balance. Practioners of Chinese Medicine can also provide lifestyle advice so that you are able to come back into balance on your own.
Living in harmony with the seasons is at the core of Traditional Chinese wisdom. Health is nurtured by living in harmony with nature, one’s environment and found through preventative practices and practical eating.
Align with Summertime
Foods for Summer Season
Here is where I remind you that it is always best to talk to your physician before making any major changes to your diet. Professional practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine can also provide safe advice on lifestyle practices and foods that will suit you! This article is for information purposes only and cannot substitute personal advice from a professional.
Happy New Year! I wish you all the best as we begin 2013. I'm happy to be in the midst of Winter. I can't even believe I'm saying that! The snow is beautiful (not too much, not too little), the weather is crisp (not too cold, not too warm) and the coziness of the season has me inspired to sleep longer, read more books and make more soup!
Embracing the inward direction that cold brings is one way to harmonize with this often difficult season. Adding more warming foods to your diet helps too! If you feel that you are constantly cold or low energy, then hot tea, meat soups, warm breakfasts and stewed fruits will help build Qi. It is equally important to avoid most dairy, tropical fruits, raw foods and refined sugar when feeling cold and fatigued. And always remember to take time to enjoy your meals!
All the best to you and yours,
Diplomate of Asian Bodywork Therapy!
I am now nationally certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as an Asian Bodywork Therapist!
"You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe,
deserve your love and affection."
See you soon,
Fall is in the air! Things are drying out, cooling off and beginning to change. Yet, I bet we can expect a few more sweet summery days this month before the weather truly shifts! I'm beginning to dream of cool autumn walks, bonfires and soup. How about you? Here are a few good links below for you to enjoy. See you soon!
SEAWEED :: love it? never tried it? scared of it? curious?
Here is a great introductory article that explains a bit about the health benefits and how to get started with eating these delicious vegetables of the sea!
You've probably heard me talk about the Spleen by now. And if not, check this out! Here is a very well written informative article all about loving your Spleen!
I love eating soup and I love making soup. Here is one I can't wait to make this season, it is a Mulligatawny (Indian Stew) made with root vegetables, lentils and coconut milk. Soooo good!
about the wisdom of Chinese Medicine as applied to Shiatsu & Massage, healthy living, the benefits of Bodywork and simple healthy lifestyle practices.