“Rolling With the Punches!” by Paul Slezak

One of the things I admire most about Sascha, is his ability to keep me grounded; to help me not flip out or over-react when something doesn’t quite go according to plan; and to generally find the positive angle in every situation.

It’s one of his (many) gifts.

I’m writing this post looking at the bright side of a situation that at the time was pretty bland (and not quite what I was hoping for at all) … as you’re about to find out.

Ever since watching the Griswalds visit the Grand Canyon in National Lampoon’s Vacation as a kid, a trip to the Grand Canyon has always been on my bucket list. So when a recent conference took me to Las Vegas, I figured a day at the Canyon would be the perfect post-conference side trip.

I found a tour company that ran day tours to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and booked my ticket. The online brochure outlined a 6am hotel pick up, a quick stop at Hoover Dam, then out to the Canyon for a few hours of awesome viewing spots, before heading back to Vegas by 7pm.

With the conference out of the way, I couldn’t wait for the big day!

I boarded the coach at 6am from my hotel and we were on our way. The driver mentioned that the forecast was for “some light rain and perhaps a few light snow flurries” but reinforced that we’d be in for a great day.

At Hoover Dam I snapped a few quick pics (more just because I wanted to stretch my legs), before the coach headed along the famous Route 66 into Arizona.

I must have fallen asleep for about an hour and woke up when the coach pulled into a gas station. When I looked outside I could see the rain was pelting down.

We left the gas station and headed towards the Canyon. After about another hour or so the rain had clearly become snow … and even for an inexperienced Aussie (who had only seen snow once before), I could tell that it was more than just a flurry!

The coach slowed right down and continued at a snail’s pace for about another 45 minutes until we pulled into another stop.

We were told we were at our lunch stop.

I got off the bus and it was bitterly cold and the snow was coming down aggressively. I couldn’t even see across the road.

After a quick lunch the coach passengers were divided up into groups and directed to different jeeps. The jeeps were covered in thick plastic ‘hoods’ (they were clearly typically open vehicles). The seats were covered in melted snow and the wind was absolutely biting.

Our tour guide introduced himself and then let us know that in 18 years of living and working in the Grand Canyon, he had never seen a blizzard like this but we’d still head towards the south rim.

The 6 of us in the jeep were freezing so he offered us a blanket to share!

After about 20 minutes we arrived at what was supposedly (usually) the most breathtaking photo spot. I got out of the jeep and as I stood next to the jeep the snow came up past my ankles. I couldn’t feel my face (I was just wearing jeans and a standard hoodie) and my fingers started going numb.

I literally couldn’t see more than 2 feet in front of me. As far as I was concerned the fact that the spectacular Grand Canyon was (apparently) right there was irrelevant. I was being battered by a freak snow storm.

After less than 2 minutes standing on the edge of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, I just wanted to get back into the damp jeep and get the hell out of there.

The guides had been instructed to leave the canyon due to the severe weather and that we would be taken to a nearby museum while the blizzard hopefully past over.

The “museum” turned out to be a wooden hut (about the size of an elementary school classroom) where we watched a video on how the Grand Canyon was formed.

Side note: I hated (and failed) geography at school. How rocks move over millions of years doesn’t really interest me in the slightest, and right now (with my feet now also numb from walking in the snow in regular runners) I was staring at an old TV monitor listening to a documentary about the canyon that looked like it was made in the 1970s.

Get me out of here.

I’d paid over $350 so far and was cold, wet, numb and watching an outdated DVD.

The guide then drove us back to the coach stop and we were told we could spend the next hour in the gift shop!

WTF? An hour looking at postcards, key chains and fridge magnets of what the Grand Canyon should have looked like?

We got back onto the coach and the expressions on all the other passengers were priceless. Nobody said a word. It looked like everyone was in a trance. Pissed off. Frozen. Over it.

We started crawling back towards the main road. The snow was now coming down even harder than before and it was starting to get dark.

10 minutes into the return journey, the driver announced that there was a bad accident up ahead. The traffic then came to a grinding halt. We literally weren’t moving.

The driver then announced he was putting on a movie.

I am not kidding here when I say I watched the entire Oceans Eleven movie and half of Dumb and Dumber before the bus even moved an inch. Outside the blizzard was still in full swing and clearly the roads were incredibly icy.

What should have been a roughly four-hour drive back to Las Vegas turned out to be over seven hours! Once the accident was cleared, we crawled back towards Sin City and I was dropped back at my hotel after midnight.

I was booked on a 6am flight back to San Francisco the next morning. I’d been out for 18 hours and literally hadn’t seen a thing. My mood was beyond foul. I couldn’t wait to write my abusive TripAdvisor review about my visit to the Bland Canyon.

But somehow Sascha’s voice was in my head … “Just breathe. Listen to your body. Take a deep breath”!

My body was telling me that it was still freezing cold, hungry, exhausted, and feeling completely ripped off!

But then Sascha’s voice continued in my head … “Remember that sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. Look on the bright side – you got to see snow for the second time in your life!”.

He was absolutely right.

The Grand Canyon isn’t going anywhere. I’ll be able to visit it some other time only next time if there’s even a hint of cloud I won’t get on the bus.

Actually better yet, I will book a helicopter trip over the canyon instead!

A Time of Yin

The end of the year 2016 is fast approaching.

One thing I have heard from many of my patients especially over the last month is how tired and drained they feel. From what I can see, this year brought many challenges personally as well as nationally and globally.

Winter is a good time for deep introspection, to discover the layers of personal and global tension that we might have internalized and to do some deep healing to release this tension layer by layer.

For some these layers are felt in their dreams: this is a safe time for us to feel and explore our inner lives with the least amount of interference from our waking mind. Consider starting a dream journal to start making you aware of the material that arises as night.

The most challenging part in dealing with the darker seasons in life is often the first step: To start slowing down and to start feeling. There’s something that happens when we pay attention to our inner lives with a loving and clear intention to heal – there’s movement.

In Chinese medicine we call the principle to go within, to go deep, and to connect with our deepest resources of healing the Yin aspect. Yin is an energetic quality representing feeling supported in the body, manifesting as trust and feeling secure, a sense of feeling calm and rooted. Physically it represents body fluids, lubrication, the ability to cool and nourish all organs.

As we are aware of the wonderful qualities of introspection and self healing that this time of Yin brings, we keep in mind one of the main principles of Chinese medicine: balance. So, Winter is the best time to balance all this Yin with Yang.

Yang is warmth, movement, circulation and it tends to be naturally lower in the Winter months.

So to balance this beautiful Yin energy, make sure you also apply the principle of nourishing Yang this season: Eat mostly warm/hot foods like soups and stews, add ginger and cinnamon wherever you can, drink lots of hot tea and do make time to circulate your blood through light exercise, stretching, breathing.

So, as we naturally slow down in the Winter, we balance the tendency to hibernate and go within, with gentle ways to stay warm and keep the fire going, as well as to share with loved ones in a deep and gentle way.

Acupuncture,  Chinese Herbs and moxibustion are a great way to boost the Yang in Winter months – there’s a belief in China that a powerful treatment in the height of Winter (Winter solstice on December 21st) will ward of the cold for the entire year.

In any case, stay warm this Winter, tap into the healing qualities which Yin time brings by slowing down, honoring your feelings and by sharing with others when it feels right.

Here’s a link to a recipe for an easy to make Winter vegetable soup, enjoy!

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/winter-vegetable-soup-358098

Happy Yin time!

Sascha

It’s Time to Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. The focus shifts from ghosts to turkeys, and before we know it the Christmas decorations will be up and carols will be piping through the speakers in every store.

Yes … it’s The Holidays!

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? Is it the food? Is it about spending time with family and friends? Perhaps it’s a time to feel connected to the founding pilgrims?

This year, I wanted to share my own Thanksgiving thoughts.

Let’s put aside the turkey, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, and the pumpkin pie. Let’s focus on you for a change.

For much of the year you’ve been likely been caught up in the pressures and stresses of the day to day. At home or at work you’ve probably focused more on what you don’t have than what you do have. Well, at least that’s how my mind works!

Thanksgiving can be a time where you can slow down and refocus. It can be a time where you can thank yourself for everything you have been able to achieve so far this year.

Take a deep breath. Pause. Reflect. Take stock. Slow down. Step off that treadmill (or at least turn it down a few notches). Look around you.

Now exhale. Leave the stresses of work and personal life behind (and maybe of the election too). Ignore (even for a moment) the pressure and burden of hosting all your family for Thanksgiving dinner (and perhaps the fact that you’ll have to do it all again in a month!).

We don’t spend enough time praising ourselves for all our accomplishments. We apologize to others; with thank others; we go out of our way to help others; we listen to others.

It’s time to listen to your own body. Listen carefully to what it’s trying to tell you.

Block out the noise. Shut the door on the external stresses and pressure that you have welcomed into your life all year.

Take some time for yourself and try your best to slow down during the holidays. Sure, there’ll be family, friends and food all around you. But it doesn’t mean you can’t sneak away to meditate and re-energize; or squeeze in a yoga class or two. Gosh everyone else will be so caught up in everything they might not even notice you’ve gone!

Trust me, you’ll feel amazing and you’ll thank yourself for it … literally. And you might just find that you create a new tradition for yourself.

Oh and at the family feast, when your body tells you it’s had enough, that’s also a good time to really listen to it 😉

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Power of Mindfulness

A patient arrived at the clinic the other evening. She looked exhausted.

I can’t even remember how I got here”, she said. “I must just be on auto-pilot”.

I showed her into the treatment room at once, sensing it was time for her to relax.

Many patients talk about being so busy that often they run their entire day on autopilot – whether it’s being a busy parent or working in an office.

For me, when I hear someone talk about “being on autopilot”, it means they’re not able to cope with a dozen balls in the air or multi-task. It means they might not be focused, present, or fully ‘there’ in the moment.

When you’re in a state of mindlessness, it means that you’ve completely stopped listening to your body; you’re simply going through the motions of everyday life; you’re checking the boxes to get things done; and you’re becoming more susceptible to stress and anxiety.

For many years I have followed the writings of Jon Kabat-Zinn – a world-renowned teacher of mindfulness and stress reduction. He defines mindfulness as “paying attention; on purpose; in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”.

When I tell my patients to breathe and listen to their bodies, it’s much about being conscious and in the moment – it’s a practice of mindfulness.

We spend so much time thinking about things that have already happened, or worrying about things that might happen in the future, that often we actually forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment.

Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens, in the moment. It helps clear your head and make you more aware of yourself and your body; it helps slow down your thoughts and your nervous system; and it helps you to concentrate, relax and manage stress.

When practicing mindfulness we’re not aiming to control or suppress or stop our thoughts. We simply aim to pay attention to our experiences as they arise without judging or labelling them in any way.

With its roots in Buddhist meditation, some people practice the technique through yoga. However you can clean your kitchen mindfully, brush your teeth mindfully, stand in the train mindfully, or go for your morning walk mindfully. 

Any routine activity can be made into a mindfulness practice when you bring your full attention to it.

Mindfulness simply means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Remember there is no “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or worrying about the future.

To experience the true power of mindfulness, take a deep breath and focus on the present moment. Try not to think about anything that went on earlier today or that might be coming up tomorrow. Concentrate on what’s happening around you.

Remember not to be judgmental about anything you notice, or label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The Heart and the Belly don’t make these distinctions, only the mind does. Have fun with it!

My First Ever Yoga Experience | Guest Blog Post by Paul Slezak

When I read Sascha’s latest blog post about the power of yoga, I wanted to share a quick story about my first ever yoga experience which actually only took place a few weeks ago. I’ll admit, Sascha has been encouraging me to incorporate yoga into my wellness regime along with my weekly acupuncture sessions for quite some time now. I finally built up the courage and went along to a studio close to where I live. My plan was to set myself up right at the back of the class. I had never tried yoga before; I have a very fragile lower back; I am ridiculously inflexible; and I didn’t want anyone to watch me.

When the instructor came in, he decided to conduct the class from the back of the studio! There I was … right in the very front row! Let me stress, I had selected a “beginners’ basics” class, but some of my fellow participants appeared to be warming up like elastic bands! I honestly can’t remember when I last sat cross-legged on a mat. It could have been in grade 4 at primary school. Was this already a pose? I was already in pain! The instructor led us through some breathing techniques that I couldn’t even get right! Something about trying to make a soft whispering sound as I tried to inhale through my mouth?!?

A few of my classmates (perhaps the elastic banders!) would hum every now and then. I couldn’t tell who since I was keeping my eyes closed and was very focused on my newfound breathing style! When the actual movement (stretching) began, so did the mega sweats! As we were guided through warrior pose, tree pose, child pose, and downward dog I considered asking for a mop since the puddle of sweat on my mat was becoming a small pond! I was feeling more exhausted than after a 20km walk or a spin class! I hadn’t even moved off my mat!

The instructor dimmed the lights and his voice became almost trance like. I was lying in a pool of sweat on my mat with my eyes closed counting my breaths. He told us to focus on every part of the body – from the little toe to the knee … to the …I literally fell asleep.

I heard the sound of a chime and opened my eyes. My classmates were back to sitting cross-legged with their hands in prayer-like pose. He then said “Namaste” and everyone stood up. That’s when I peeled myself off the mat! I must have only dosed off for a few minutes but I felt like I had slept for hours. My body felt amazing. I had an incredible sense of clarity. It was one of the most amazing hours of my life (and I’m not exaggerating). That night I slept straight through the night. I can’t remember when that last happened.

My lower back hasn’t been playing up; My stress levels are practically non-existent; and I feel like I am in complete control of everything … without my usual emotional spikes.

Thank you for encouraging me to try yoga, Sascha!

I’m off to join Cirque du Soleil!

Yoga: Bringing Awareness, Breathing and Movement Together

You see them everywhere. Especially here in San Francisco. No matter what time of the day … and particularly on weekends. People walking around in stretch pants, often wearing slightly too much fluro, carrying a rolled up mat in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. Where are they all going?

To yoga!

But despite the appearance of some of the fans you may see on the street, yoga is far more than just another trend du jour like zumba or soul cycle! Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins dating back to ancient India, combining physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and a distinct philosophy.

As an individual you are far more than simply a walking brain. Your mind, body (and soul) often need to find a calm place – a time for you to really connect with your entire body. Some people who practise yoga may be addressing specific health conditions, such as back pain, neck pain, arthritis, and anxiety. However several studies suggest that practising yoga can improve quality of life; reduce stress; lower heart rate and blood pressure; help relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia; and improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility.

Yoga is the perfect accompaniment to acupuncture. Trust me your body will love you if you combine both practices as part of your weekly wellness regime. To simply be with your body and your own breath is a wonderful experience. But remember that everyone’s body is different, and yoga postures should be modified based on your own individual capabilities. Make sure you select a studio and an instructor who is experienced and attentive to your needs helping you practise yoga safely.

Give it a go … Feed your soul; stir you mind; your body will thank you for it.

Namaste

Spring Equinox 2016

We officially welcome the Spring Equinox on Sunday, March 20.  I write “officially” because the unusual rains have prompted the onset of an early spring in the Bay area, so much so that many of our bodies have already begun transitioning into spring well before it officially begins.  What does this mean in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?  It means that for many of us, our internal clocks and rhythms are not in sync with the cycle of the seasons, and they will work hard to balance themselves once March 20 arrives.  During this time, we might feel “off” as our mind, body and spirit try to find their equilibrium.  Uncontrollable feelings of bad temper, irritability, unease or anxiety may arise in response to such changes. Self-judgment may come up when we do not understand why we are feeling this way.  Do not worry – this frame of mind is normal and we do not need to be ruled by them.

In TCM, Spring is associated with the Wood element, and the liver and gall bladder organs.  Wood is connected to the rising energy and the development of an action.  This very much aligns with the way that Spring generates renewal, growth and rebirth.  But with Wood also comes emotions such as impulse and anger and at their most balanced states, impulse and anger help dissipate tension and reinstate balance.  At their unbalanced state, however, impulse and anger result in feelings of being out-of-control, irritability, self-criticism and harsh judgment of others. You may picture wood that cracks with too little flexibility and nourishment versus healthy and strong wood, flexible enough to withstand a windstorm.

The liver is a vitally important organ that screens the blood for toxins, viruses, and bacteria and plays a major role in supporting the body’s immune system.  The gallbladder is located under the liver and its primary function is to store the bile produced by the liver.  According to TCM, the liver helps to regulate qi and blood, stores and cleans the blood during sleep and helps to balance emotions. Acupuncture helps balance the liver and gallbladder not only to perform their physiological functions, but also to restore these organs’ deepest functions of energetic regulation and restoring emotional balance. Acupuncture is able to help convert anger and irritability into healthy assertiveness, a much more balanced and relaxed state of being, and a key in strong and healthy relationships with self and others.

In other words, acupuncture during the Equinox helps slow things down and guides us back into our power.  We can turn impulse into grounded energy – the sentiment “I’m feeling like my strong self again” comes to mind here.  Acupuncture treatments can very much help align our bodies, minds and emotions back in sync with nature because it resets the system in accordance to the change in season, thus making this an easeful and powerful transition.

So be kind to your bodies during this time. Get plenty of rest, hydrate often, do a spring cleaning, get outside and stretch and enjoy the new scents of the Spring blooms, and schedule an acupuncture treatment.  As always, I’m honored to help in your journey to health.

I look forward to seeing you soon!

Sascha

Spring recipe suggestion:

Kale Salad (Kale is great for liver health!)

Ingredients:

1 large bunch of curly or dinosaur kale (stalk removed and sliced into ribbons)

The juice of one lemon

1/4 extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

Kosher salt

2 teaspoons honey

Freshly ground black pepper

1 fresh mango, diced small (approximately 1 cup)

2 heaping tablespoons toasted pepitas/pumpkin seeds

Directions:

Add the kale to a large mixing bowl along with a little kosher salt and half of the lemon juice.

Using your fingertips, “massage” the kale for five minutes, or until the leaves are sweet and tender.

Add a drizzle of olive oil and “massage” for another minute. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the honey and freshly ground black pepper. Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil while whisking until a dressing forms. Add salt to taste.

Pour some of the the dressing over the kale to coat the leaves, and add the mango and pepitas. Toss and serve.

http://www.liversupport.com/recipes/massaged-kale-salad/

Winter Solstice 2015

Tuesday December 22 marks the Winter Solstice.  May this day remind us to honor our mind, body and spirit through the changing of seasons.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the winter months are associated with the Water Element and the Kidneys, the source of Essence, primordial Yin and Yang.

So this season, be kind to your physical body by honoring the Kidneys, which help to flush out toxins through the urinary system and help prevent illness by housing the deepest life promoting substances of the body, which in TCM we call our Essence, Yin fluids and Yang fire. This might translate to taking some well needed rest and naps during the busiest holiday season. More sleep at night, naps, gentle restorative exercises, warm and nourishing foods and drinks and breathing practices can really boost your deepest energy stores and help keep you healthy all year long. One such breathing practice could be to close your eyes and visualize light emanating from your Kidneys into the rest of your body while taking deep breaths. To boost your immune system, visualize this light and let it grow until it covers your whole system. Do this for about 5 minutes 2-3 times a day for best results.

Be kind to your emotional body by allowing whatever feelings arise through the months of December and January.  While culturally Winter is often a time of joy and celebration, in TCM, it is also a time for processing our fears, sadness and grief, as we witness and grieve the dying nature around us which prepares our world for the birth of Spring.  The holidays are also a time when we think of people we’ve lost in our lives, so when these feelings of grief arise, pause and reflect on them rather than push them down.  Do not fear sadness – it is a natural part of our lives and one which we should embrace. What we sometimes call the “Winter Blues” may actually be a natural process of grieving and releasing, making room for Spring’s new growth and new hopes and dreams.

Finally, be kind to your spiritual body and use your breath and awareness to connect to your Highest selves.  Ask that part what it needs for healing during this time and honor what you hear, not in your head, but in your heart.  It can be as small as “taking a walk” to something as big as making a career or relationship change. Try to listen to what your spiritual body is asking of you and attempt to give it what it seeks.  The attempt is often enough to appease our highest selves.

As the rainy season begins, do add some nourishment and warmth into your body by eating soups and stews that include root vegetables and warming spices such as Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom. The Kidneys are the “root organ” of the body according to TCM, so eating roots and tubers during this time is good practice. I recommend a visit to the local Farmers Market to see what’s in season – you can’t go wrong there! For a nice winter vegetable stew, try this one:http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/winter-vegetable-stew.html

I would also be happy to see you for a treatment during this time- seasonal acupuncture and herbal medicine can help our mind, body, and spirit transition better through the changing seasons. For the Winter season specifically, it can help bring vitality into our systems on a deep level, while fending off colds and flus and keeping you warm from within.

Sending good health in body, mind and spirit, and I look forward to seeing you soon!

Sascha, Tree of Qi Acupuncture Clinic

 

Fall Equinox 2015

Oh my, time flies – I feel like I just sat down and wrote my Summer Equinox blog, and here we are entering the Fall Equinox, on September 23.  But there’s something about this time of year that I always look forward to, especially after coming out of a busy summer.  I often find that the summer moves a little too fast for me, without leaving me too much time for reflection.  So when the weather cools down a bit – even here in the Bay the air is feeling a bit more crisp – and the sun comes down a little earlier while rising a little later, my meditation also gets a little longer. I can find time to breathe a bit more again and reflect on myself.

Fall to me is connected to watching leaves change colors for it’s a great reminder of the cycle of life.  Like these leaves, we were vibrant and full of energy from the warm summer sun; now that the temperatures are cooler and the evenings grow longer, our bodies wish to move at a slower pace.  Our systems also nudge us to go within so we can process all that we have accumulated in the summer months, keeping those that are doing us good and releasing those that are no longer serving us.  As we turn our energies inward, all that outward energy we spent in the summer months gets redirected back into our own healing process.  I find that watching the trees let go of their decayed leaves helps me let go of my ‘decayed’ parts as well.

Perhaps this is why grief is the emotion associated with the Fall equinox.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Fall is associated with the metal element which is connected to grief.  Letting go is often connected to experiencing loss and separation which often evokes sadness.  But do not look upon grief as a negative experience; instead try to see it as a natural part of the cycle of life.  Grief is actually what allows us to let go so we can make room for the new and healthy.

The colon is the organ associated with the metal element which eliminates unnecessary toxins from our bodies.  As the colon eliminates the physical garbage of our bodies, our minds can eliminate the mental and spiritual wastes we’ve been holding on to so that we can take in the pure.  The lung is the other organ associated with the metal element, and it is what balances the colon.  As the colon purges, the lung takes in fresh air so we can breathe in the new.  To me, the fall weather often brings a certain crispness to the air, and this season, we can be inspired to take in deep, long breaths to help us move forward our cycle of cleansing and rejuvenation.

Acupuncture is good to bring balance to our elements and to ease our anxieties of the changing seasons. It helps with grief and it helps us see the beauty in the changing of the seasons and the letting go/letting in process.

This Fall, I encourage you to take many walks out in nature. Pause, reflect, breathe.  Let go and let freshness in!

Sascha
Fall recipe: Butternut Squash Soup

3T Olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium potatoes, cubed
1 butternut squash, peeled & cubed
1 container vegetable stock
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot, and cook the onion, celery, carrot, potatoes, and squash for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Pour in enough of the stock to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 40 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
  2. Transfer the soup to a blender, and blend until smooth. Return to pot, and mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

 

Summer Solstice 2015

Sunday, June 21st marks not only the first day of summer but also the longest day of the year.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, summer is associated with the Fire element, which is connected to the Heart organ.  The warmth of the sun powers the world around us, as well as cultivates our inner core.

During the summer months, most of us tend to be more social, enjoying outings, parties, and time with our community.  It is our inner Fire that helps us be more active so we may appreciate all that the external world has to offer.  So this summer, I encourage you to make good use of this Fire by recharging the energy that you consumed during the Winter and Spring months.  Like a solar panel that uses the sun’s warmth to generate electricity, you can soak in as much sun as possible to generate your body’s electric waves by spending as much time outdoors as possible: go on many walks and hikes, have picnics and play in the park, swim in the ocean or lakes, and allow the sun to energize you both physically as well as emotionally.  Not only are you recharging your system, you’re also boosting your Vitamin-D levels, which may protect against osteoporosis and heart-disease as well as alleviate forms of depression, insomnia, and an overactive immune system.  Because the Heart is often connected to emotions, going outside often helps release feelings like anger and resentment, and the sunshine often alleviates feelings of depression or sadness.

Do remember to keep hydrated as you remain active.  Excellent alternatives to ice-cold drinks (which too often shocks our systems) are fresh fruit juices, melons, or lemon water.

Also make time to balance the social with some R&R: relax in a hammock, read in your back porch or garden, take a yoga class, or ride your bike, just to ride it!  Breathing and meditation exercises are also helpful – wake up with the sun, close your eyes, take in a few deep breaths and fill your lungs with fresh air as you take in the morning heat.

Sometimes, excess of the Fire element can create hyper-excitability or restlessness.  Contrarily, people who are deficient of Fire may feel apathetic or gloomy.  An acupuncture treatment during this time may help balance the Fire element in your system.  This will help especially if you feel symptoms like excessive perspiration, insomnia or anxiety.  I also like to tell my patients to take full advantage of the maximum Yang energy of nature to prepare us for the coming Fall and Winter months.  Treating Winter diseases, such as depression, chronic bronchitis and fatigue, during the Summer months helps us achieve maximum results with the least amount of effort.

Thank you for being a part of my Summer and I look forward to seeing many of you very soon!

Happy Solstice,

Sascha

Summer Recipe: Easy Gazpacho

Combine 4 cups tomato juice, 1 minced onion, 1 chopped cucumber, 1 green pepper, 2 chopped tomatoes, 2 green onions, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 avocado cubed, juice from 1 lemon, a bunch of chopped parsley, a bunch of chopped cilantro, and salt & pepper to taste.  Mix and serve cold!


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