Breathe and Wellness Follows by RJ Lisander

Conceptual close up of a little girl blowing a bird feather away.

When Deborah asked me to share my thoughts on wellness and more specifically what wellness means to me in a blog, I didn’t hesitate to say “I’m in”. After all, I have years of experience in guiding and advising on wellness and 1,000s of hours of reading, coursework and certifications to qualify my voice. But, when I actually sat down to write I realized I am trained to assist others as they define for themselves what wellness means and that my thoughts on wellness were so wrapped up in what others have defined that my voice was a little soft.

Huh.

So, where does that leave me? A fake? A fraud? Not exactly. It lead me stop, to breath in this feeling of uh-oh and to take a really good look at my day-to-day life to see how I define wellness in the midst of all my responsibilities, relationships and the unexpected turns and shifts along the way. What I found over the past couple of weeks of observation is that there is no one way or right way for me to define wellness. Wellness rolls out for me as an awareness of a practice, true presence and an appreciation of the pause.

Like so many reading this, I realize the self-care industry is telling us to take time from schedules to add meditation, yoga, massage, acupuncture, art/ dance/music/color therapy, spa and weekend retreats in nature. And, yes! One hundred percent, YES! We should be doing ALL these things as often as we can. But, expecting to be able to do all (or any combination of them) all the time is setting us up for failure. Do these things as often as you can, but also do the little things that fit into the pauses of the day to appreciate the moment, to be present with yourself and your needs.

For me, wellness means:

Daily detox: This is two, well, really three-part.  First, it is a media detox. Take a few moments a day to turn off the electronics and to make yourself unavailable to others. Walk, drive, sit in silence, even if just for a couple of minutes a couple of times a day. The second is a detox from saying yes. Sometimes we have to realize we are running low and we need to say no to something. even one little thing can be the difference between us feeling overwhelmed and like things are manageable. So, say no when the first though, instinct you have is “Oh no! I can’t possibly!” The third is a food detox. If you know me, you know I am not a fan of juicing, fasting, fad and restrictive diets. I am a fan of healthy, natural eating and for me that starts with a daily cup of warm water and lemon. This daily detox does so much for the organs, digestive system and energy that I can’t say enough about how it makes me feel cared for and healthy.

Wellness is taking a moment to nourish.

Simple pleasures: Y’all know I love my coffee. A large part of that is the way the coffee steam feels on my cheeks as I pause to take a deep inhale of the scent before I take a sip. This is one of the things in each day that brings me joy so I indulge in that moment. I also find great joy in that first deep breath of fresh air as I walk out the door to start my day. I enjoy staring out windows to notice the sunshine, rain or snow.

Wellness is taking a moment to observe and find a connection to your environment.

Stimulation: Finding the pieces of your day that are missing in the rush can be difficult. In my two weeks of observation of my natural habits I noticed stimulating my mind with quotes, conversations with friends and music all brought me something. Sometimes joy and laughter, sometimes confusion or other things, but always a connection to something greater than myself.

Wellness is taking a moment to find connection to that which you are inspired by, drawn to and learn from.

Sleep:  When I don’t sleep well everything is off balance. I am a total and complete wreck and, as my family will attest, a terror to be around. I know this and over the years I have found ways to address this and I do not, under any circumstances, let go of this practice of nightly sleeping and waking rituals. The time it takes for my body to restore from my daily activities, release the energies of those with whom I have the honor to work within a healing environment, and prepare for the next day is critical to my ability to do all I need and want to do.

Wellness is knowing what you need and making sure it is your nonnegotiable in any and all situations.

Journaling: The hardest part of wellness for me has always been the connection to my own creativity. I was raised to do well in school, test well, and to be a lawyer, doctor or engineer. Creativity was encouraged in the form of musical instruments (which I couldn’t seem to play no matter how hard I tried), singing (which, much like musical instruments I couldn’t master), sports (which I excelled at, but, let’s face it, there isn’t much creativity in following a play book or routine). It was in college that I took a true like of writing and endeavored to do more with it and soon found myself obtaining a minor in creative writing. The connection to my own creativity and the practices I found to connect to that voice were the truest and most valuable experiences of my collegiate career. With the process of journaling, even a sentence or two on the notes application on my cell phone, each day, I stay connected to my creativity. Creating is whatever it means to you. But, create. Have a vision, make a plan to see it manifest and then share it. If you love it with all your heart and find the beauty in it there is no fear of judgment. Others will see the beauty inherent to the creation.

Wellness is taking a moment to hear your own voice, intuition and believing in it.

Breathing: The breath. The breath is always the indicator as to what our emotional and physical state is. We notice the rapid breath of anxiety, working out, panic that we missed the meeting or are late to pick up the kids. We notice the breath when it is long and full as we walk through the woods, sit on the beach or snuggle in to a good book. We can each define and recognize the breath of sorrow and laughter. But, it is in the pause at the end of each inhale and exhale that we have the ability to shift our wellness. We can choose to recognize and adapt the breath for what we need to truly find space, calm and a little bit of peace. Taking a moment to notice our breath brings us closer to our true self, our true calling and our state within the moment. Inherently noticing and knowing that sometimes we are more of one thing than the other and then finding the pause, no matter what the means to you, to find the opposite, to me is the epotiome of self-care.

Wellness is the balance of what must be done and what we want to do.

So, breathe. Just breathe. And, wellness will follow.

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Year of the Dog…Guest post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

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I love the new year. It is the perfect time for reflection and new intentions as well as cleaning up and cleaning out. I love getting rid of what no longer serves a purpose in my life and freeing up some space for newness and change. This process is not always easy but there is beauty in the struggle and always an opportunity to learn something new. However, the expectation that we change our behaviors immediately and sometimes drastically is unrealistic without easing into it or doing some serious planning. That is why I consider the first few months of the year as my time to ease into my new habits and intentions. It is nice that the Chinese New Year comes anywhere between a few weeks to a month and a half after the Gregorian calendar celebrates the New Year. Though I am not Chinese, I enjoy learning about other cultures and their approach to the new year and self improvement. It is an additional time to reflect, learn, and fine tune my intentions.

 

According to the lunar calendar the Chinese New Year begins February 16, 2018 and lasts until February 4, 2019. Each year is associated with a zodiac animal; this year is the year of the Dog. The year of the Dog comes every 12 years. The years are also associated with the five elements, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. This year is the year of the Earth Dog. The Earth Dog comes around every 60 years. Though it is considered bad luck if the zodiac animal of the year is the same as the year you were born in, a little heads up can help you be aware and possibly aid in some decision making. I am just going to skim the surface on this topic. You can definitely go deeper into the subject if you desire. At the very least these predictions can be entertaining and give you something to consider when setting new intentions for the new year.

 

The characteristics of people born in the dog years are said to have some of the most desirable human qualities. They are loyal, honest, amiable, and kind. They don’t need much in the way of material things and are happy with the basics, food, shelter, water, and a little love. They work hard and rest hard, a nice balance of yang and yin energy. On the flip side, they can be stubborn, self surviving, and have a brutal bite.

 

The year of the Dog is predicted to be good for business and technology and a great time to make lifestyle changes.  It is said that this year is a perfect time to start a new business or start learning something new. Health might be a bit more challenging for folks so it seems that this is a great time to focus on eating a balanced diet, limiting sugar, getting lots of sleep, and exercise. Dogs like to work hard, play hard, and rest hard. It will be extra important to rest and rejuvenate after work and social events.  Unfortunately, the year of the Dog may bring political turmoil (shocking). I don’t think anyone is surprised by this. Our current president is a dog.

 

I hope this post has given you something to think about and inspired you to get rid of something (physical or emotional), set a new intention, or motivated you to put your health at the top of the To Do List. Happy New Year, y’all!

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The Holidays…Guest post by Austin Dixon, L.Ac

Hey Folks,

The holiday season is here and in full swing. While all of us might not celebrate the holidays this time of the year we can’t help but be affected by them. This is when schedules get filled with social events (both wanted and unwanted), lots of money is spent, food and drink flow, and expectations are high. No matter how much you love or hate the holidays it is filled with extreme highs and lows. So how do we balance out those extremes? I have a couple thoughts….

Stop making the holidays about gifts. There are so many other beautiful ways to spend your energy. Get creative and do things that feel meaningful to you. Examples…

  • volunteer (there are tons of places looking for help…soup kitchen, public schools, tutoring, local non-profits, arts organizations)
  • have an experience instead of a gift (get together and do something!)
  • write holiday cards to folks that don’t get a lot of attention during the holidays (folks in nursing homes, overseas, jail, the hospital, etc…)
  • deliver treats (food, cards, etc)  to folks who have to work on holidays (fire stations, hospitals, police stations, grocery stores….)

Take care of yourself (and I don’t mean by spending money!).

  • go to bed early
  • eat cooked foods and avoid raw, cold foods
  • take salt baths
  • drink extra water
  • avoid sugar to the best of your ability
  • spend time outside even though it is cold
  • exercise (even 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes)
  • say no when you don’t want to do something and don’t feel guilty about it
  • spend time looking inward and reflecting on the year
  • stretch daily (set a timer to remind yourself to take stretch breaks)
  • if you have the means, schedule acupuncture, massage, or a fun class for yourself

Stop feeling guilty about what you eat. Even though I think sugar is kin to the devil, I truly believe the hateful things we say to ourselves are more damaging. It is really hard to avoid eating foods we view as “bad” over the holidays. Instead of beating ourselves up about it let’s focus on moderation (or not… go to town on that pie!) and use gratitude instead of shame. “I am going to eat this cookie that was made for me out of love.” “I am going to eat this cake in celebration of ________.” Our minds are powerful, let’s not let a cookie destroy our well being.

Do your best to stay in the moment. When the To Do List is long and the days are short it can feel overwhelming and stress gets elevated. Try to stay in the moment by making a gratitude list. You can do this with pen and paper as a daily ritual or simply stop in the moment of frustration and mentally list 5 things you are grateful for. I find that a gratitude list can also be helpful when preparing  yourself for visits with challenging family members or co-workers. Since contact is inevitable over the holidays prepare for the interaction by making a list of their positive qualities and/or ways that your life is possible and/or improved because of this person. Even if this list is short (sometimes very, very short) it can be a useful way to put yourself in a good place before entering a stressful social situation.

I hope you found this post helpful in some way and can have a few more relaxing and gratitude filled moments this holiday season. As an acupuncturist I found it important to write something that might help folks through the holiday stress, but I recognize the place of privilege I am writing from and the people of privilege I am writing to when I suggest people go to bed on time and take epsom salt baths. Not everyone can do that. However, I still believe these things are important to implement if you can. I understand I am not touching on true stresses that come from not having enough money, lack of physical or emotional support, devastating illness, or loss.

Your friendly acupuncturist,

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Healthy Eating: 10 Spice Vegetable Soup

Guest post by Lorien Armour:

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I just made my first soup EVER and it’s delicious!  I used Oh She Glows’ 10-spice vegetable soup recipe as a guide, but made some substitutions and left out a couple spices because I didn’t have them (and forgot them at the market–oops).  I think the best substitution I did was the using a Japanese sweet potato–it really added a nice sweetness in contrast to the cayenne pepper seasoning.  Also, the cashew “milk” adds a nice creaminess to the veggie broth/tomato base.  And it freezes well!  I can’t wait to make this and other soups all Fall and Winter!

Check out Lorien’s full bio and class schedule on our website!

Healthy Eating: Thai Peanut Empowered Noodle Bowl

One of my goals for this blog was to provide information on all areas of Healthy Living, therefore I have decided to start posting healthy recipes from our clients and staff!  If you have a recipe you would like to share, please let me know.  We will mainly be sharing recipes that incorporate seasonal, whole foods.
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The first recipe is a suggestion from Lorien, one of our fabulous Pilates instructors.  Lorien has been making a conscious effort to eat more fresh foods and this is one of her favorite new recipes.
She made this delicious recipe substituting summer squash for the cucumber and agave for sugar.  It tasted so yummy and she loved the feeling she got from eating this light and fresh meal!
This recipe is from another blog (ohmyveggies.com) and comes from a great cookbook:  The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow From The Inside Out.  How could we NOT love a cookbook with that title?!
**Check out Lorien’s bio on our staff page and join her for a private or class!**
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