Summer and The Yin Yang Balance: Guest post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

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Am I the only one feeling like there is too much happening and too many places to be right now?

Probably not. This feeling is typical for this time of year. There is a lot going on and we want to do all of it. Our busy Spring/Summer schedule can make us feel excited, energized, yet completely overwhelmed and exhausted. You might find yourself overdoing it a bit and craving down time but struggling to find it. This kind of constant activity leaves us feeling burned out and resentful. Though we are responsible for knowing our own limits and not over-committing, we aren’t completely to blame for our packed schedules. Nature plays a role as well.

Chinese Medicine is based around the balance (yin and yang) in nature. We are a part of nature and very much influenced by its changes, sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle. Changes in the seasons affect our physical and emotional balance.  In the Spring, Yin (calm, cooling, slow energy) is moving into Yang (energetic, hot, fast energy) preparing to peak at the height of summer.  It is only normal that as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer our bodies do, too. We start to crave more activity and movement. Plans get made, vacations are set, and the next thing we know we have no down time. We have completely lost our friend, Yin, that we got to know so well over the Winter. We can’t just ignore Yin during the summer months and hope that sleep will balance it all out.  We have to create our own Yin moments. When we balance our Yin and Yang we are at optimal health and all the systems in the body run properly and smoothly.

Here are some ideas for balancing your Yin during the summer….

Get acupuncture. Even if you “don’t have anything wrong”, acupuncture helps balance the body and improve the function of all the systems.

Get a massage. Massage not only feels good but also has many health benefits.

Meditate. You don’t have to sit for hours everyday to meditate. Start with 3 minutes of quiet everyday. And remember, meditating doesn’t mean you sit without having thoughts. That is practically impossible. Meditating is sitting quietly noticing your thoughts. That’s it. If that feels like too much to ask, try focusing on your breath by making the inhale and exhale equal. Three minutes will fly by.

Exercise in the morning. Exercising is a Yang activity. Our Yang energy is rising in the morning and peaking at noon. When we exercise in the morning we are working with natural energy of the day when neither Yin nor Yang are in full force. After noon Yin begins to increase. The later we get in the day the more present Yin is. Honor the flow and keep your evening activities relaxed and calming. If you want to be a Yin Yang Overachiever you can even plan a noon nap everyday. Countering the most Yang part of the day with the most Yin activity.

Do Tai Chi and/or Qi Gong. Both of these are forms of gentle exercises designed to bring body awareness and superior health and wellness. It is best to do at sunrise and sunset, but you will still get the benefits anytime of day.

Get plenty of sleep! Sleep is when our body replenishes itself. It is a Yin activity. Sleep is extremely important to keeping a good balance.

Limit coffee. Coffee gives us a false sense of energy all the while depleting the reserves we do have. I love my cup of coffee, but too much of it will have me running on empty.

Food! It is important to balance Yin and Yang foods with an extra emphasis on the Yin. Most veggies are Yin and cooling, especially the green, leafy ones. Fish and seafood are cooling as well as seaweed. There is a lot of information online about how to eat in alignment with the seasons and Chinese Medicine.

I hope you have found this helpful. It is hard to live a balanced life these days. Start small and feel proud of the small successes. Good luck everyone!

Austin Dixon is a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) who enjoys working with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as women’s issues, immune support, and digestive issues. She believe that healing is best achieved when lifestyle changes occur in conjunction with acupuncture. Each of her patients will have an individually tailored treatment plan that may include dietary changes and finding creative ways to reduce negative stress. Every patient is different so every treatment plan will differ depending on the needs and goals of the individual. She states, “One of the most important things to me is that my patients feel ownership and are empowered by their healing process.”

InsideOut Body Therapies recently won Best Acupuncture in the Independent’s Best of the Triangle contest.

The “F” Words: Guest post by Lori Ginsberg, PT

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How can I “fix” my aches and pains? What can I do to avoid activities that cause these aches and pains? WHY am I plagued with these problems over and over again?! I had this issue years ago and it is BACK again…why?!

I get asked these types of questions on a regular basis and the answer is simple. The F words.  FIX, FOUNDATION and FUN. Three words that can change the way you approach fitness and function (more F words!) and avoid the chronic injury/re-injury cycle. Knowing how to balance your time among these three exercise stages will go a long way toward keeping you fit, strong and injury free.

FIX activities are appropriate when injury or dysfunction exists that causes pain and/or abnormal movement patterns. This stage focuses on restoring the most basic movement foundations, protecting the affected structures from further aggravation and allowing healing to take place.   This stage is best managed by experienced physical therapists or other highly trained and licensed movement specialists.

FOUNDATION activities continue to build on the fundamental movement patterns introduced during FIX (or are where to start if no injury exists). These activities focus on making conscious neuromuscular connections to fine tune and improve quality in movement patterns. When such activities are practiced regularly and in good form, the foundations become automatic and the body “upgrades” itself. A good example is the improved posture that results over time from practicing Pilates. Where at first holding yourself tall and straight felt unnatural, now slouching and rounding your shoulders is uncomfortable. It’s now easier to maintain your OPTIMAL alignment!

FUN activities range from CrossFit to gardening, playing beach volleyball to daily long walks with the dog. To perform FUN stage activities, without risking a return to FIX, it’s important to have an adequate FOUNDATION. You wouldn’t build a tree house on a tree with no roots and a flimsy trunk. Neither should you kick a soccer ball or swing a golf club without a strong foundation (aka “core”).

A solid, lifetime exercise program should include regular activities from both the FOUNDATION and FUN categories.

The result…better posture, increased awareness and connection to your body, and improved performance in all levels of activity… from climbing the stairs to reaching a new PR in a triathlon….and less visits to the FIX stage.

The Core Align is the newest tool here at IOBT and is an ideal one for moving through all of these stages. The exercises are fun, functional and challenge the neuromuscular system to perform at its optimal level. Check it out, along with our other Pilates equipment and floor classes at InsideOut Body Therapies.

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http://www.insideoutbodytherapies.com

To schedule a CoreAlign or Pilates private or register for classes at InsideOut, contact the studio. 919-361-0104  info@insideoutbodytherapies.com

Moving Through Pain: Guest post by Susan Rhea, DPT

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Pain. So many people deal with pain on a daily basis. While pain itself is a normal sensation in our body, meant to protect us and help us survive, in some cases it can persist, changing and limiting our daily activities.  That’s when it can become chronic- causing suffering and resulting in activity modification.  That is not normal.  This doesn’t happen with all pain, though.  So why do some people bounce back from injury while others do not?

As it turns out, the answer may lie in the brain. The nervous system is a huge contributor to chronic pain and can be the true cause of conditions such as chronic low back pain, chronic neck pain, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.  As you might imagine, this is quite a complicated topic!

Pain is not an input. It’s an output.  

Contrary to what you might think, pain is not an input—it isn’t caused by outside sources. Yes, there are nerve fibers in our bodies, which are meant to sense pain, but the BRAIN is where pain is actually created.

For example, if you stub your toe, nerve endings in your toe sends signals to the spinal cord and up to the brain. The brain then determines how it will interpret that information. The brain doesn’t just process the physical sensation from your toe, but also all the other stimuli it is receiving, including information like what you are hearing, seeing, and feeling (emotionally and physically). That information is then sent out to other parts of the brain, including the parts of the brain that process emotion, problem solving, memory, and the motor cortex, which allows you to react to the “danger” at the root of the pain and then protect yourself.

For many people, the toe hurts for a little while but then feels better, and the stimulation to the brain returns to normal. In some cases, however, such as major trauma or when the brain can’t identify the source of the “danger,” the brain continues the pain output. The parts of the brain that became stimulated don’t shut off and neural pathways that were associated with the injury trigger the pain output even though there is no longer any true physical danger. This can result in increased sensitivity to other sensations, impaired movement patterns, and difficulty returning to normal activities of daily life. Emotional changes may also result, including feeling anxious about movement, fearful of re-injury and even depression.  All of this can cause a cycle of disuse, pain, and disability.

How can we break the cycle?

  1. Education – Understanding how pain works has shown to have major benefits in people with chronic pain. A great resource for patients/clients with pain is the book “Why do I Hurt?” by Adriaan Louw.  Many of these suggestions are from this book.
  2. Sleep  –  Good restorative sleep is so important. Tips for promoting healthy sleep habits include limiting TV/screen time in evening hours, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, and exercising regularly.
  3. Walking – Walking is excellent for increasing circulation, increasing positive hormones, reducing stress, and reducing fatigue and muscle soreness.
  4. Slow and Steady – Often people return to their regular activities too quickly.  Instead, slowly increasing activities to tolerance and allowing for progressive desensitization will be helpful.

At InsideOut, we believe that Movement Heals and we are committed to helping you have a positive movement experience.  With our guidance and support we will work together with the whole body to break negative pain cycles.   Stay tuned for our next blog post in which we will discuss more specifics on how to work with pain to break the chronic injury/re-injury cycle.