The daffodils are blooming, which means it's time for my yearly PSA on supporting the Wood element through spring. I like to highlight this each year, because spring is a season that can be especially challenging for folks. There is a lot of upward and outward energy. This can feel great after the quiet of winter, but also pretty intense. For me, focusing on harnessing and moving my Wood energy helps me to enjoy the beauty of the season.
What is the Wood element?
According to Chinese Medicine, springtime is associated with the Wood element and the Liver and Gallbladder organ systems. The Liver organ system is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi in the body and connected to the sinews and tendons, the menstrual cycle, and digestion. The balanced emotions associated with it are generosity and kindness. The unbalanced emotions are frustration and anger. The Liver also plays a big role in creativity, developing new ideas, and planning. The Gallbladder organ system stores and secretes bile and controls the sinews. It is key in decision making, moving the creative energy of the Liver into fruition and affects the dreams.
Why are the Liver and Gallbladder organ systems so important?
Disharmony in the Liver and Gallbladder organ systems are very common in our culture and tend to become more pronounced in the spring. One of the most common Liver disharmonies is Liver Qi stagnation. This means that the Qi (energy) of the Liver organ system is stuck and not moving smoothly. If the Liver Qi is not moving smoothly the Qi of the whole body is affected along with other major functions in the body like digestion and menstruation.
Stress, anxiety, and feelings of not living out your life's purpose can all play a role in the Qi of the Liver becoming stagnant over time. Symptoms of Liver Qi stagnation include neck and shoulder pain, eye problems (floaters, bloodshot eyes, blurry vision), headaches, feelings of anger, frustration and irritability, fullness in the upper abdomen, pain along the ribs, depressions, signing, PMS, breast distention and tenderness, and other menstrual irregularities. If you are prone to these symptoms it would be beneficial to focus on keeping your Liver Qi energy flowing smoothly throughout the whole year, but especially during the spring.
What are my favorite ways to support the Wood element and the Liver and Gallbadder organ systems?
I hope these ideas help you feel more supported this spring.
As we round the one year mark of pandemic life, I find myself reflecting on my dedication to promoting relaxation for my clients. For me, relaxation is the key to an effective treatment no matter what the primary goal of the session. In this blog, I'll give a brief overview of how bodywork promotes relaxation through the nervous system and why that is important for your overall health.
During a bodywork session, therapeutic touch directly on your skin or through clothing is used to send signals to your autonomic nervous system through the peripheral nerves. Your autonomic nervous system then communicates with it's two branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, to calm the former and activate the latter.
This is important because many of us live in bodies where the sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive. This system is designed to be activated during emergent situations, but not everyday. When it is overactivated, you may find yourself in a constant state of fight, flight or freeze. This can lead to increased levels of cortisol and other stress hormones which can cause inflammation and pain. Other symptoms of an overactive sympathetic nervous system may include high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, weight gain and decreased memory and concentration.
By activating the parasympathetic nervous system through touch, these affects of chronic stress are decreased. Your body can focus on conserving and storing resources for everyday processes such as digestion, elimination, restful sleep, and maintaining an even heart and breath rate. Decreased stress hormones such as cortisol can lower inflammation and pain in the body. In this way, bodywork can have a profound effect on your whole body.
Being relaxed during a session also allows for deeper work to be received and assimilated into the body so that you have less pain and feel more energetically balanced. After your bodywork session, the benefits can be perpetuated by giving yourself some time after your appointment to take a walk, do some light stretch and rest before you move back into work or a stressful home environment.
I bought these tulips on Tuesday as a pick me up during this cold spell and a reminder that winter is not forever. I wanted to share them with you in case you are in need of the same reminder. Winter is not forever. In fact, spring is on the way and I have been noticing the shift of seasons in my body despite this week being really cold here in Minnesota. To me, it feels like something is slowly growing and expanding inside of me. Do you feel that too?
In case you need more evidence that spring is on the way, today marks the first day of the Lunar New Year, a 15 day festival celebrated by Chinese and many other Asian cultures as the beginning of spring and the new year. The festival starts on the first new moon and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar. In Chinese Medicine, this is the time of year when the winter Water element energy starts to move into spring Wood element energy. That means that right now is a great time to start harnessing that Wood element energy through your practices.
Wood element energy is expansiveness and creative. This makes the spring season a great time to start new projects, develop new habits and get creative. The Wood element is also associated with the color green, sour tasting foods and the Liver and Gallbladder organ systems. Because Wood element energy can be strong and expansive it can also cause discomfort in the body. This usually manifests as headaches, neck and shoulder pain, feelings of stuckness and depression.
A simple way to work with Wood energy is to get your body moving. Shaking, bouncing and tapping are all great ways to move stuck energy in a short amount of time. Here is a short video on shaking and bouncing that I made. I would also highly recommend dancing for moving stuck energy. All dancing will work, but I really enjoyed the class I took at Pony Sweat recently per a friend's recommendation. It moved the funk right out of me and moved the joy in. The classes are self-described as a "fiercely noncompetitive dance aerobics celebration" and can be done live or you can rent a recorded class to do on your own time. I really appreciated that the instructor encouraged the participants to listen to their bodies and only do what felt good. Also the music was great! Just thought I would share in case you were looking for some new ways to move your body.
Winter is the height of Yin energy (quiet, still and deep). It is a time of rest, reflection and rejuvenation. In Chinese Medicine, winter is also connected to the element of Water and the Kidney + Urinary Bladder organ systems. The Kidneys are said to be the Foundations of Yin and Yang for the whole body as well as connected to growth, development, and reproduction.
Winter can be an excellent time to replenish Yin and maintain Yang to move towards a deeper sense of balance. In my experience, this year has been extra depleting. Stress plays a huge factor in this as well as probably not getting enough physical rest. I'm guessing that many of you are in the same boat. How does one replenish the Yin and Yang of the body? This could look like building in time to do activities that are rejuvenating and restful like journaling, meditating, and getting more sleep as well as getting daily exercise and connecting with your community.
A balanced Water element is reflected in a sense of being able to handle the ups and downs of life with clear, calm solidity. It is associated with the virtues of strength, courage and wisdom. A unbalanced Water element can manifest as low back and joint pain and increased fear, panic and anxiety. Some ways to support the Water element include the activities listed in the previous paragraph as well as eating more black/dark blue foods, drinking bone broth, balancing your salt intake, and doing Qi Gong or stretching to focus on your low back and keep your joints moistened.
I hope that you find some deep rest and rejuvenation this winter and also so fun!
7ish years ago, I started my journey to becoming a therapist by enrolling at Centerpoint Massage and Shiatsu School & Clinic with a vague notion of wanting to support others in the healing process that massage had so magically provided for me. I'm not going to lie, I had no idea what I was getting into. 7ish years later, this vague notion has become a reality and developed into something quite beautiful.
The last 4 years have been spend building a private practice at Wellness Minneapolis with a team of badass owners, practioners and support staff that have taught me so much about running a business, holistic health, collaboration and teamwork. I am so grateful to be a part of the team and the Kingfield neighborhood.
I am also so so grateful for my clients, family and friends that have supported me through this learning process by being interested in trying out new techniques and modalities, herbal adventures, mediation and self-care suggestions. This year has been tough for all of us and forced a high level of adapting. Hands on healing seem incredibly important right now and I am blessed to be a part of many people's healing journeys. I believe that community, support, compassion and deep healing will get us through this and I look forward to continuing to work with all of you.
As the weather starts to cool down and summer moves into fall we are entering the Earth Element time of the year. One major function of the Earth Element is digestion and assimilation of foods and fluids. This function can also be extended to the digestion and assimilation of thoughts and activities.
In thinking about the Earth Element, I've been reflecting on my own means of nourishment and feeling the need to soak up a little extra this season. Are you feeling that way too? I'd like to invite you to make a list of what foods and activities make you feel deeply nourished and spend a little extra time each day soaking up the nourishment.
Here are a couple ideas from my list: bone broth, vegetables (all of them), meditation, getting extra sunshine, gardening, hugs, sleep, connecting with friends/family and reading.
I’m so excited to announce that in person bodywork sessions are available starting Tuesday, June 23rd!
As you can expect a lot of changes have been made to the space and treatments will be a bit different when you come in, but my commitment to providing space for deep healing focused on your specific goals has not changed.
The schedule has been limited to 60 minute sessions for the time being. Please schedule online or by calling 612-598-8627. Not really for in-person work yet? That okay, Mind-Body Self Care Consults are still available and can be scheduled via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I appreciate your understanding and flexibility as we navigate this new way of working together. Reach out if you have any feedback, questions, or concerns. Please review the remainder of the email, so that you can be prepared for your next session. Looking forward to seeing you soon!
What to expect and my commitments to you:
Common areas are being cleaned and disinfected regularly.
The ventilation system in the building has been upgraded.
All non-essential items have been removed from the common areas and treatment room.
One way flow for traffic has been implemented in the clinic. Please enter through the front door and exit out of the back door.
I am self-screening for symptoms daily and being vigilante to adhere to social distancing and avoid situations that are high risk for transmission in my personal life.
I will be wearing a mask the whole session.
The treatment room and table will be disinfected thoroughly between clients and all sheets/blankets laundered between clients.
Additional time has been allotted between appointments to adhere to health and safety guidelines.
Contactless transactions: your credit card on file will be charged after the appointment. You can update/verify what card is on file by calling Wellness Minneapolis reception: 612-598-8627. Please no cash or check at this time.
What I ask of you:
Do not come in for an appointment if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID 19 or is experiencing the following symptoms within 14 days prior to your appointment:
***If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please notify Wellness Minneapolis immediately and we will reschedule your appointment. The 24 hour cancellation fee will not be charged if you need to reschedule due to COVID-19.
Wear a soft cloth or surgical mask to your appointment. Hard formed masks will not allow for you to lay comfortably face down. You will be expected to wear a mask for the entire appointment per DEED guidelines. This is not negotiable.
If you are scheduled for Shiatsu, please bring a clean set of comfortable clothes to change into for your appointment.
Come alone to your appointment unless you need assistance/supervision or are a minor.
Wait outside the front door at the time of your appointment. I will meet you and let you into the building at your appointment time.
Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer that is provided at the front desk upon entering the building.
Bring your own water bottle or have some water in your car for after your appointment.
Looking forward to working with you soon!
I’ve decided to “continue to pause” before reopening for in-person bodywork sessions. Massage therapy has been slated to reopen on June 1st by Governor Walz, but the consensus of many local bodywork therapists and my intuition is that this is just too soon. I assure you that I am taking your health (and my own) very seriously, and also working hard to find a way to provide bodywork services in the most ethical and safe way. One of the reasons that I started practicing massage was because of the profound effects that it had on my mental, physical and emotional body. I wanted to spread that love to others. Bodywork can be an integral therapy to support people through this time and the element of touch is important as we are more isolated than ever.
Before reopening, I will be working diligently to get a preparedness plan in place, collect supplies (many are on backorder), and sifting through options on how to restructure operations to build in time for extensive cleaning between clients and pre-appointment screening. There are going to be a lot of changes, but my dedication to providing therapeutic sessions focused on your health goals will not change.
Mind-Body Self-Care Consults (more info about these sessions below) will continue to be offered. I have also made a library of free videos of self care tips for physical pain and tension and to reduce stress. You can find all of the videos here. If you need in-person support reach out and I can refer you to a therapist that is open for sessions.
My next benchmark for reopening is in the end of June-early July. I will keep you posted on the exact date. Thank you for your patience and understanding. I’m really looking forward to getting back in the treatment room and working with you!
We’re well into spring and I wanted to share a self-care video focused on abdominal self massage techniques that you can do at home to support detoxification and digestion. Usually in the spring, I start thinking about supporting my detoxification process with gentle cleansing techniques like abdominal self massage, increasing movement, drinking extra water and incorporating spring herbs like dandelion into my routine. In Chinese Medicine, the spring is connected to the Liver and Gallbladder, so giving these organs some extra attention during the spring can be helpful. You can read more about the Liver and Gallbladder Organ Systems and their connection to spring here.
A couple months ago, I wrote an article for Wellness Minneapolis about the benefits of abdominal massage, specifically as support for “spring cleaning” the organs. You can read the article here. All of the benefits of abdominal massage discussed in the article still apply to self massage that you do at home. Working on your own abdomen can have a huge impact on detoxification, supporting elimination and releasing stuck emotions. It also allows you to connect to an area of the body that often doesn't receive touch. I would recommend doing these techniques 1-4/week. Start slow and gently. Notice how you feel afterwards and have some extra water throughout the day.
Click here to watch the video and start your abdominal self massage journey.
Please reach out if you have any questions. Generally, abdominal massage is not recommended during active menstruation, during the 1st trimester or pregnancy, after a recent abdominal surgery, or during active or acute infection in the abdomen. If you have any questions about whether abdominal self massage is right for you feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Over this last month, there has been a lot of adapting happening collectively and individually. How are you settling in? Do you need more support? How is your body feeling? I'd say this week is the first week that I have been feeling more in the flow. Throughout this process, I've been thinking a lot about trees and how gracefully they seem to adapt to different situations. Their branches grow in twists and turns to reach the sunlight and around obstacles, leaves and bark change their shape and density depending on the climate, and root systems adapt to different soils. They are pretty magical!
Being more treelike, for me, has involved deepening my routines around sleep, food, exercise and rest for groundedness. While also listening to my body and allowing for flexibility in routine. I've been carving out spaces in my home to work, play, and video chat, connecting with friends and family around the country for support, and soaking up the spring sun with a lot of walks.
My bodywork practice has also been adapting quickly over the last month with the focus being: How do I continue to be supportive to clients and my community while hands on bodywork is not an option? I've worked to answer this question by moving my work to a virtual setting offering one on one Mind-Body Self-Care Consultations for clients, being more engaged with social media to stay connected, partnering up with a bunch of rad ladies to host a daily meditation and by making how to videos to share as a resource for in home self-care during this time. Check out the first installment of videos including some techniques for neck and shoulder tension and a sweet mediation called the Inner Smile Mediation to foster gratitude for your body and build inner radiance. Click on this link to watch the videos. I plan on continuing to make videos and staying connected via Instagram and Facebook.
I encourage you to reflect on the ways that you have already gracefully (or not so gracefully) adapted through this situation and consider what ways you can be more treelike to find grounding, rootedness, flexibility and strength. Please reach out if you need support, have how-to video requests or just want to say hi. We will get through this! Miss you and am looking forward to getting back to the treatment room as soon as it's safe.
Amy Daws is a trained Therapeutic Massage, Shiatsu, and Chi Nei Tsang therapist. She is interested in the way that these modalities can bring healing and joy to people's lives.