According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Late Summer season is a sweet spot of balance and also a highly transitional time of year. It is the turning point from the rising Yang energy of the Summer to the descending Yin energy of the Fall and Winter. This time of year is associated with the Earth Element and closely linked with digestion of food and experiences. During this time of year, it can be helpful to focus on activities that allow you to feel grounded and nurtured.
Digestion is one of the key functions of the Earth Element, making this element intrinsically tied to the ability to nourish and nurture oneself. The Earth Element is made up of the Spleen and Stomach Organ System. The Stomach’s main function is to “‘rot and ripen food and fluids,” preparing it for “transformation and transportation” by the Spleen. Both of these processes allow for energy from food to be converted into energy (Qi) in the body. General tiredness and weakness are the most commonly treated symptoms in TCM and are often due to deficiency in either of these organ systems.
To support the digestive process, start with focusing on what you are eating. Foods that are warm and cooked are more easily processed by the Spleen and Stomach. Chew your food. The more you chew your food the more easily it can continue to be broken down by your digestive system and converted into energy (Qi). Turn off the TV and computer while you are eating. Focus your intention on the process of eating. Taste your food and be aware of how certain foods make you feel. Allow yourself to feel full and content after eating. Rest and allow yourself to assimilate the act of eating before moving to the next activity.
In addition to the digestion of food, the Spleen and Stomach are also strongly linked to the digestion of experiences. Taking time to assimilate and digest experiences can help you to feel more grounded. Take time to process the day in a way that works best for you. This could include journaling, creating art, walking or meditation. Focus on establishing or reestablishing routines. You could do this by focusing on waking and going to bed at the same time each day, engaging in physical activity in a way that supports you in feeling strong and stable, and taking time to be in nature. These are just a few ways that you can support the Earth Element during this time of year.
Interested in learning more about the very important Earth Element and how it is reflected in your body and the world around you? Follow this link for information about a one hour workshop this Saturday afternoon, September 16th, 2017. The workshop will include more in-depth information about the functions of the Earth Element, it’s associations (colors, emotions, sounds, areas of the body, etc), and ways to promote feelings of being grounded and nurtured. The workshop will also include acupressure points and an easy self-abdominal massage routine to aid with digestion that you can use at home.
Many people wait to get bodywork until they feel PAIN. I don't mean a little pain, I mean a lot of PAIN. Either there is an incidence of extreme pain (ie: "pulled a muscle") or pain that has built up over time. Often clients schedule appointments with me when the pain has gotten to the point where they can't manage it anymore.
What if you started getting bodywork before it got to the point of "I CAN"T TAKE IT ANYMORE"?
I know, I know you're busy and it's expensive and you have to plan ahead, but face it: you will feel better in the long run and have far less incidences of intense pain if you schedule bodywork as a part of your healthcare plan. The benefits of regular (usually monthly) bodywork far outweigh waiting until you get to the "I need it now!" point.
The Benefits of Regular Bodywork:
1.) Increases body awareness. Regular bodywork sessions helps you connect to and feel your body. The busyness of our culture often forces us to focus on getting s*%t done. In order to do this we are often also required to negate feeling of fatigue, stress and pain. Increasing your body awareness may help you identify how your body responds to stress and help you make life changes that will lead to a more balanced life.
2.) A Full body massage is like a full body scan. Each time you go in for a bodywork session you have the opportunity to feel all of the areas of your body in one fell swoop. You can identify how those areas of your body feel at that moment and also how they change from session to session.
3.) Regular bodywork helps you connect the dots. You will start to see the patterns of tension in your body and feel how they are related to your activities. Do you often have the same three spots along your neck, shoulder and arm that hurt? Do these areas hurt more when you do a certain activity like using the computer? Noticing pain patterns and being able to connect them to motions you do in daily life is a major key to living pain free. Modifying your movements can help you break down tension that is building up and curb repetitive stress injuries.
4.) Generally decreases stress and tension. Having a monthly bodywork routine along with other self care techniques for stress management allows you to release stress and tension that is stored in the body and just plain RELAX! This means less built up stress and tension which can lead to disease or chronic pain.
5.) Allows you to form a relationship with your therapist. Working with the same therapist over time lets you have a constant external barometer on your body. The therapist can get a strong sense of what patterns of tension you hold in your body over time or how they vary in cycles. Working with the same therapist over time also allows for greater depth in your sessions and success in achieving of your goals.
6.) Regular bodywork often helps you in ways you didn't plan for or know existed. Regular bodywork helps increase circulation, regulate sleep and digestive functions, and general balancing of the body. It may help break down emotional issues that you struggle with or feeling of disconnectedness. Regular bodywork can have profound effects on the way that you live in the world that you did not expect or even anticipate.
This weekend was the first hot one of the summer and I started scrambling for ways to keep cool without air conditioning. Little lightbulb in my head goes off...why not use a peppermint sugar scrub as an invigorating and cooling way to wake up my senses. I'll tell ya, I was so happy with "my discovery." Added bonus: your skin gets moisturized without that sweaty summer lotion feel.
3/4 cup of Sugar
6 Tablespoons of Carrier Oil (almond or jojoba oil)
10-14 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil
8 oz jar
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. After mixed transfer to jar.
Instructions: Scrub over skin and rinse off.
Many clients ask me what the difference is between a Massage and a Shiatsu session. Although there are many foundational similarities, knowing the differences can help you get what you want out of your bodywork session.
On a general level, any Massage or Shiatsu session's main focus is to address pain and discomfort in the body through physical manipulation (grasping, pressure, stretching, compression and rhythmic tapping). Both Massage and Shiatsu understand that pain and discomfort stem from a lack of balance or alignment in the body. This imbalance can be due to overuse patterns, injury or emotional trauma and stress. They both can be done using lighter or deeper pressure and be invigorating and/or relaxing.
Massage session are generally done with the client unclothed and draped on a massage table. The sessions are focused through the lenses of conventional Western Medicine. Manipulation of muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments are the main focus of treatment. Trigger points (or "knots") in muscles are identified and deactivated to relieve pain and tension. Sessions can be focused on a specific area of the body or address the whole body. Therapeutic massage can also be great for general relaxation and stress relief.
Clients stay dressed in loose comfortable clothes during a Shiastu session. Treatments are done either on a massage table or a mat on the floor. Treatments are focused on the meridian system of Traditional Chinese Medicine which has a very holistic view of how the body works. The whole body is worked on in a treatment, because it is believed that activation acupressure points away from the area of concern have an effect on that area. Shiatsu sessions often include more stretching techniques and movement.
Specific situations that may make one modality more effective for you:
I encourage everyone to try both a Massage and Shiatsu session. Most therapists utilize techniques from a variety of modalities during a session. Your choice of modality will shift the focus of intention for the session. As you learn more about how each type of bodywork feels and how you feel after receiving a treatment you may switch back and forth depending on what you are looking to get out of each session. Play with it, have fun and enjoy all forms of bodywork!
Whether you are a die-hard New Year’s Resolution Maker, a Mindful Intention Setter or a Person who thinks New Year’s Resolutions are a sham, January 1st comes with a sense of renewal. This sense of new beginnings can be acknowledged in many different ways. Whichever method you choose, I urge you to think about the ways that positive self-care can support you in your goals.
When you are making changes, especially when it involves cutting out something that is deeply entwined in your routine, think about replacing it with something that truly serves you in a positive way. Regular, monthly bodywork can be a great way to support yourself during these times. Bodywork helps to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help break down pain and tension held in the body. This allows your body (and mind) to have the energy to focus on new endeavours. Bodywork deepens your connection to your body. Cultivating a strong positive relationship with yourself will support you in making changes. This connection also helps you respect and love your body, creating a desire to uphold habits that are positive. Bodywork can be especially supportive for those that are working through body image issues, addiction or want to break a habit that is negatively impacting their health and wellbeing.
Remember: Regular bodywork is not the only way to perform positive self care. Nutrition therapy, physical activity, Yoga or Qi Gong, mindfulness practices, health coaching, art therapy, and psychotherapy are also great ways. When you are trying to make changes in your life you don’t just have to tough it out. Cultivating support from within yourself through a strong healthcare team allows you to make changes that are sustainable and long term.
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.