Yin vs Restorative

A few of you have asked, what exactly is the difference between Yin and Restorative yoga? While this could be answered many different ways, a simple explanation is within the intention. One is not “better” than the other and they often overlap at least on the outside.

Yin – focuses on finding length and expansion within the being.

Traditionally, yin poses follow the body’s meridian lines to move energy and stagnation that manifests physically in our tissues, feelings of tightness or stiffness. While the body is seemingly still within each pose, there is movement with each breath to deepen the experience. Finding the edge where comfort meets sensation and then with time and breath expanding the edge as space is created. Yin is a balance of effort and ease, not every pose will “feel good” depending on what is being worked on or through mentally or physically. In these experiences, the mind is able to relearn how to efficiently cope with the stories often attached to physical sensations. We practice staying present with what is around and within us on our mat so that we can do this for ourselves in the world. This process is done with support and care; we are never forcing our bodies to comply with what a pose “should” look like. We are, however, paying close attention to the unique individual alignment and subtle shifts of our own experience. Yin poses are considered the lunar side of yoga. Calming, cooling, releasing, and stretching. If you have tried yoga before, these are typically the poses you do seated or laying down on the mat. We are not working to build strength or heat within the body, but to release and move what is already there.

Restorative – focuses on softening, relaxing, and releasing within the being.

In restorative yoga, all effort is replaced by ease, at least that is the goal. This can be more challenging than you would think. Our bodies are constantly receiving information from interactions within our environment. This is a busy world. A lot of that input can get stuck in our body’s holding patterns. Restorative yoga allows our bodies to rest with awareness, relaxing the mind and body layer by layer. In doing so, the being gets to re remember what ease feels like, cultivating the inner observer our space. Awareness creates choice and we can better navigate how we respond to to the world around us. Restorative yoga is a longer class to allow time to properly set up each pose. We use (many) props such as bolsters, blocks, and blankets to completely support the body and find a comfortable resting position, which can take time. The intention is to release all effort, allowing the body to discover areas of chronic tension and softening with awareness.

The Path of Wellness

In the western paradigm, we are prone to a rather narrow view of health and healing.  In this disease-centric model we perceive healthcare as managing/responding to a disease or attempting to prevent it. This is like going from negative to zero and only focusing on half of the health picture.  Wellness, is the best term I have come across to describe what happens beyond zero and into the positive.  Wellness is not about prevention, it is about expansion.  There is always a place for the healthcare of disease management.  Illnesses are to be respected and cared for tenderly. We have ample, highly qualified, incredibly knowledgeable practitioners that offer services to effectively give this kind of care.  But those who are awake to the new paradigm of wellness may be looking for alternative tools to assist them on their journeys of expanding.  This is a response to such seekers.

If maintenance, such as in the western disease-centric model, takes us from negative to zero, wellness takes us from zero to positive.  As mentioned, wellness is about expanding consciousness.  Expanding consciousness entails a shift in one’s vibrational field.  Energy is information and is expressed at various density levels.  The densest being our physical body, then our etheric body, emotional, mental and various refined spiritual bodies.  For those on a spiritual path, it may be of interest how these bodies align and inform one another.  As we begin to look at wellness and expansion we discover we can use our own effort and will to refine even our densest of energy bodies.  As we do, we change the information (energy) available to us.  As this information changes, our physical body, mind, and emotions change as well.  Many will even report a shift in the day to day challenges they have and find things that use to be struggles before aren't anymore.

At this stage our consciousness begins to shift as a direct result of our own volition. We find tools to help us unfold and while we deal with any physical or social ailments, we become more interested in our inner journey.  Tools on our wellness journey are practices like eating the highest quality and vibrationally clean foods we can, meditation, mindful movement practices, and receiving energy work.  

Even though acupuncture has been around for thousands of years, what continues to be taught in schools today remains rooted in the western paradigm, be it responding to illness or focusing on preventing imbalances.  The focus of preventing imbalances is not a wrong way to practice.  I often use acupuncture as a tool to meet clients where they're at in dealing with physical issues.  But think about it, what is the motive for preventing energetic imbalances?  Most people I have asked say in order to avoid dealing with the physical/mental/emotional expressions of those imbalances.  Energy workers who are aware of the wellness paradigm are more interested in helping clients open up, and access the higher vibrations of their Heart center.  As this is done, prevention is  swept up and moved beyond as the expansion of consciousness is chosen over the contraction of focusing on the physical.

As we climb the ladder of wellness we find our sensitivity increases and we become more particular with what we ingest – including food, music/sound, information from TV and news, social activities, etc.  For those who are rooted in the comforts of the day to day living, it may not be the right time to embark on such a journey, but for those who are ready to release what is no longer needed and let the fires of the Heart burn through the gateways of higher consciousness, these shifts will be welcomed.  

Sound Table

Music has been a medicinal tool for ages. Noted in ancient scripture and remnants found in archaeological discoveries we know our ancestors used sound as a way to heal themselves.  Today we find science is discovering the power of sound and as it relates to medicine as well.  In recent studies, scientists are discovering that cells have sound.  Not only do different types of cells have different sounds, but healthy and unhealthy cells can also be differentiated.  Even though we are in the beginning stages of these discoveries, the potentially profound effect on medicine is elating.  If we can decode the language of cells through sound frequency we are more capable to determine physical health prior to any ill symptoms emerging. This also opens the door to better understanding the mind-body-energy relationship. 

While scientists continue to deepen their studies of cell sound, people seem to intuitively know that music can make us feel good, change our moods, and calm our body and minds.  Sound healing differs from listening to music on the radio in how it uses specific tones and rhythms to facilitate shifts in our energy body. In energy medicine, it is understood that energy is an expression of matter, but can also change matter.  For example, yeast cells have a specific frequency they emit, (which is energy), if you expose the cell to a drop of alcohol (outside energy acting upon matter) the frequency of the cell changes. 

In sound healing specific tones and rhythms are used to break up unwanted coherence in the body/mind (ie. Cancer cells, or negative thoughts.) and to stimulate the reorganization and harmonic coherence.   The frequency being produced in a sound healing session, has an organizing and informing effect on weaker, less organized frequencies.  For example, if someone comes in with anxiety, they are experiencing a very chaotic, frenetic frequency, and with it often comes nervous feeling, scattered thoughts, irregular breathing and heartbeat, etc.  If they listen and feel a frequency that is strong, deep, clear, their body will naturally tune into it and start to synchronize to it and anxiety can melt away.  Like any medicine, sound healing offers an experience and opens one to the possibility of a different way of being. It is always up to the individual as to how far they take it.

The sound table is a visceral and auditory experience that moves energy through the body and mind in a profound way. Clients rest comfortably on a massage table in a private room while selected sounds and music are played through a sonically designed experience.  The music used in these sessions is compiled playlists from well-known sound healers and musicians.  The music is intentional and purposeful.  Sessions are 45 - 60 minutes with time allowed for quiet meditation after. 

In the days to follow many clients experience a deeper sense of embodiment, openings in thought processes, release of emotion, deeper sleep, ease of pain, and an overall sense of well-being.

7 Day Simple Liver/Gallbladder Cleanse

Here is a simple 7 day Liver/Gallbladder cleanse.  Even if you maintain a relatively clean diet, cleanses are beneficial to do a few times a year to help keep the body optimized.  For those on a spiritual path cleansing the body is an essential aspect of transforming consciousness.  Regardless of your motive, it is helpful to keep in mind that many things, subtle and not so subtle occur during a cleanse.  This cleanse is simple but it moves a lot of energy, so good to plan out and do it a week you don’t have a lot of obligations and can take some quiet time.  Cleansing is always an opportunity to go deeper into our spiritual heart center, which of course is hard to do when we have a lot of things demanding our attention look outwards instead of inwards.

Plan for 7 days. On the 7th day you will need to stay home, with easy access to a toilet,  so be sure to run all errands, etc. before.

During this cleanse the only thing you need to really stay away from is dairy.  Though I also recommend no alcohol, and if you eat meat, to choose lighter meats, such as fish/chicken vs. beef.  You might find that nut butters are also too heavy.

Day 1 – 5:  Take 1 malic acid w/ mag tablet 3 times a day.  

 

Day 6:  On day 6 mix 4 TBSP of Epsom salt with 3 cups of hot water. Dissolve the salt. You’ll be splitting this into 4 doses. Between 4-6pm take 1 dose of the Epsom salt mixture. I recommend drinking it quickly.  You’ll want to stay home after this first dose as you’ll  may have urgent bowel movements. 

At 8pm take the second dose.

Still on day 6 – at 10 pm mix ½ cup of the highest quality First Cold Press Extra Virgin olive oil you can afford. With ½ cup of citrus – lemon or grapefruit is ideal.

Day 7:  First thing in the morning take another Epsom salt dose.  2 hours later take the last (4th) dose. Stay home, take it easy. 

In this cleanse the malic acid softens any gallstones you may have, and the magnesium stimulates the colon to release it.  This energetically cleanses the wood element allowing for stagnation to be released and energy to move through its natural cycle with more ease.

Why I Read Tarot

 by Ruth Bryan

It all started when I stumbled across a Tarot deck more than three years ago in a cramped New York boutique off a street in Brooklyn. The images drew me to them like a magnetic force, conveying something more powerful than words. I bought the Wild Unknown Deck by Kim Krans and began my journey into the world of the Tarot. The Tarot deck was created in Italy as far back as the mid 15th century. Scholars believe it started as a card game that began to be used as a divination tool only a hundred or so years later. Still, the deck has been recreated hundreds of times by various artists, and used to inspire and connect with intuition by thousands. 

For me, the tarot acts as a guide for a conversation - whether that be with myself, or with any other querent (the person asking the question). The images provide a visual anchor for thoughts, and the archetypes allow me to see the issue in a new and different way. "Am I acting from the place of the Emperor (Masculine Authority), when what this situation needs is more energy like the Queen of Cups (Nurturing Emotional Safety)?". 

At first the 78 cards seemed daunting, how was I ever going to learn all of them? But slowly I learned to trust the feeling, following the images and believing in myself enough to interpret from my intuition. 

I sought friends and strangers to give readings too - at cafes, at parties, I'd bring my deck with me and decided to be ready to check in at any moment. This has been such a gift for me, to have something to connect to whenever I'm not feeling clear. I can wake up and drink coffee and draw a card for the day, and use it as an intention. I also have a way to start the deeper conversations with people, find out what's really going on for them. To watch them learn to trust their intuition and guide themselves to the answers they already carry. The Tarot is a gift, and I'd love to share it with you this Saturday and every 1st Saturday of the month from 4:30-5:30PM at 5 Lights Wellness. 

Yoga as Medicine

In yoga, asana is the practice that moves and holds the body in specific positions with the purpose being to balance and purify.  In its original form, yoga was a practice for enlightenment.  In our culture most people I know approach yoga under a different motivation.  If they are taken by the practice, they share there is a sort of enlightening that occurs as the magic of yoga enables one to free up the various levels of the body, mind, emotions and spirit.   In this way, not only does the body become tone and the mind become more calm, but there is an expansion that occurs in the sense of self.  All the sudden “I” means more than my personality, my problems, my gifts, etc.  

Along the way of our yoga journey we begin to discover moving the body in certain positions changes the electrical current throughout the body.  As well, it changes the blood flow through our tissues and stretches and calms our nerves.  These changes are similar to how acupuncture, reiki, massage, chiropractic and other wellness modalities influence our bio-psycho–physio-energetic bodies.  Discovering what poses have what effect on your body is part of the transformation that occurs in yoga when the mind turns in on itself through the alignment of the body.  As you can imagine, having a good teacher to help you along the way is key in developing a true yoga practice, and not just a fitness practice.

Below is one position shared by 5 Lights teacher Melissa on Viparita Karani – “inverted in action” – and how it can be used as medicine.

High/low blood pressure? Insomnia? Low back pain? Anxiety? Headaches? Compromised immune system? Chronic stress? Healing an injury? Low energy? Chronic pain? If you said yes to any one of these ailments then Viparita Karani (pronounced Vee-pa-ree-ta Kah-ron-ee) is for you.

This pose translates from Sanskrit as “inverted in action”. Meaning, in a physically passive way you are quite actively creating powerful shifts in your being by changing the typical flow of energy. Inversion postures that take you upside down have the power to boost the body’s ability to adapt. As you probably know through your own experience, this world can be an intense place. We are constantly being exposed to other people, energies, messages, and circumstances that create a response within us. For better or for worse. While our thoughts and energy can shift rather quickly, our physical body has a deeper process for integrating and releasing information. Through yoga, we can bring our attention and intention back to the body to enhance this process. 

Viparita Karani in particular, helps the body in so many beautiful ways. When being supported by the wall (as shown in the picture), this posture has such profound benefits because it helps the body to replace effort with ease. When we allow ourselves to rest with awareness and support, we are clearing our systems, cleansing the body, and improving our energy flow. Healing from the inside out. #thanksyoga

Taking 5 to 10 minutes a day to rest with your feet up is like creating an energetic drain to release whatever happened that day or within this lifetime and bring you back to your center. Try this posture while listening to a guided meditation, audio book, or simply rest with your breath and know the benefits are great. Remember, self-care is never a waste time.

Yoga Energetics

In our busy and chaotic world, it is very common for people to become out of balance both internally and externally in their body. Ayurveda is the science of life and longevity and can often help people become more balanced. Through Ayurvedic practices, we adjust what we put into our body and develop or modify our daily practices, to find our unique state of balance. One component that will help bring balance to the body and mind, is yoga, the sister science to Ayurveda. The practice of yoga helps you become more in tune with how your physical body feels and can help you to move your prana (energy) through your body. It also helps with building strength, balance and focus to both your body and mind. To learn more about the science Ayurveda and to find out what your specific dosha is, check out Embrace Ayurveda for more information. 

Depending on your constitution (or dosha), you may need a different yoga practice than the person next to you. Kathy Gorohoff one of the yoga teachers at 5 Lights Wellness, studied Ayurveda during her teacher training and is able create a yoga practice for you that is specific to your dosha. A person with a Pitta constitution may need a more grounding, slow moving practice. Where a person with a Kapha imbalance may way to try a more heating or energetic practice. In general, Kathy's classes are gentle and energetic, while focusing on strength and stability. 5 Lights Wellness offers small, focused yoga classes and is dedicated to offering yoga that will provide overall wellness to each person that comes into class. 

If you are interested in learning more about Kathy's yoga classes or discussing a yoga practice specific to your dosha, go to: www.kathygorohoffyoga.com to contact Kathy or https://5lightswellness.com/yoga/ to sign up for a class. 

Beating Sick Season

It’s pretty common for what we consider flu season to start right around Halloween and go through New Years, with another little flare of it around Valentines day.  From a holistic perspective we can’t ignore the increase of sugar intake and stress during these months. 

Sugar creates a damp inflammatory environment in our body. Parasites and yeast thrive in damp environments and can have a dramatic effect on our physical and mental wellbeing, creating the stage for disease, mental fog and emotional instability.  Knowing a season of sugar and stress are soon approaching, you may choose to do a cleanse before and after the holidays.  This helps stimulate the immune system and can help make it easier to make healthful and conscious choices through the holiday season. 

A few things you can do to support detox (in addition to cutting out or down on processed foods and alcohol):

1.  Drink hot water with lemon in the morning and throughout the day.

2.  Support the liver with either herbs or teas.  Nettle and milk thistle are great teas to be having this time of year.   I also recommend Bairn Biologics Liver supplement that is a nice botanical blend to help tonify the liver.

4.  Support the kidneys.  Bitter flavors such as Celery and Burdock help cut dampness in the body and tonifies the kidneys.  I recommend either juicing these, or a tincture by Herb Pharm called Stone Breaker.

5.  Support bowl movements.  A healthy gut has a bowl movement with every meal.  If you’re getting enough fiber in your diet through whole grains and vegetables and are still having constipation, you may want to add magnesium supplement to your routine.  Magnesium helps calm the nervous system, improve digestion, relaxation and sleep.

5.  If you have an overgrowth of yeast a supplement can be used to treat it. I recommend Candisol by Bairn.

6. If you have parasites (if you have pets, you do.)  Herbs can be used to get rid of them.  You want to use a blend that will kill the grown parasites as well as the egg sacks. I recommend Dr. Mikio Sankey's Support the Mountain.

7.  A probiotic is always good to keep up a strong healthy gut.  Not all probiotics (or supplements for that matter) are created equal.  Again, I recommend Bairn Biologics, specifically the 15/100, which offers 15 strains and 100 billion cultures per capsule. 

8.  If you have a sugar craving use organic unsulphured blackstrap molasses and raw, unheated honey.

*A note about supplements.  High quality supplements are made of natural, organic ingredients.  How they are stored will have an effect on them and can alter their potency.  It's always best to get your supplements from a trusted source.

Foundation for vitality:

1. Eat healthy foods.  Nothing replaces fresh organic, whole foods.

2. Eat raw greens. Raw foods give us enzymes, which help our gut be healthy and improve our immune system.  If you have digestive pain when eating raw foods it’s a sign the digestive track is compromised in some way and it would be beneficial to tonify your digestive fire first.

3.  Move your body. Moving helps blood and lymph move through the body cleansing and nourishing the tissues.  Even if it’s doing stretches and short walks, throughout the week, it will help your body get rid of toxin buildup.

4.  Breath.  In Chinese medicine the lungs and colon are siblings, they are the yin and yang of the Metal element, which is a dominant energy in nature this time of year.  Together they work with the kidneys and liver to release toxins.  Most of us are shallow breathers. Our lives are stressful and we’re constantly on the go.  If we get in the practice of breathing mindfully a few minutes each day we cue our body to release what it no longer needs.

And of course there is meditation, immersing yourself in nature when you can, fill your senses with things that are pleasing and uplifting to you, and support healthy sleep habits. 

Fire & Metal: Yuji (Fish Pond) to Fish Pose.

Yuji, is the name of the 10th acupuncture point on the lung meridian. It is located on the fleshy part of the palm at the base of the thumb.  It translates as Fish Pond and energetically draws fire energy into the lung meridian, which moves metal energy.  The relationship between fire and metal is part of what is called the Ko cycle, or control cycle.  The control cycle reflects how specific energies temper other frequencies, in this case how fire energy can control metal energy by warming or melting it.

As we look to the organs that resonate fire and metal frequencies we find the yin aspects of each in the chest:  Lungs (yin metal) and Heart/pericardium (yin fire).  Balance is often thought of as equal parts, but if we look at the yin/yang symbol we may come to understand balance, at least in the living, requires more yang than yin energy.  Life is expansion/yang.

When people are expanding their consciousness I see their lung field unifies with the heart field to allow for openness as the energy is flowing in and out of the center of the chest easily.  In a moment of contraction the heart field closes and other frequencies come forward, sometimes the kidneys (water/fear) or the lungs (metal/grief) or the liver (wood/frustration).  When we do our inner work, the lung energy remains integrated with heart even when there is contraction.

If we are mindful we may notice in our bodies when these subtle shifts occur.  One pose to help temper the metal energy of the lungs and ultimately unify them with the fire of the heart is called Matsyasana, or Fish Pose. 

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Matsyasana
1-2 minutes
Props:  2 blocks, 3-5 blankets or 1 bolster.

 

· Come to lie on your back, relax the spine into the floor. Take a deep breath in through the nose, close your eyes and exhale. Repeat 3 times or as many as desired. Breathing deep into the backside of the ribcage.

· Place one block horizontally, on the lowest height, under your shoulder blades, behind the heart.

· Place the second block behind the head, vertically on medium height.

· If using blankets, fold into a thick (5- 10 inches in height) rectangle and place vertically on the ground near your tailbone. Relax back over the blankets, relaxing your shoulders and soften your neck.

Pay attention to your neck. The intention is create length and openness, so notice any compression, tension, or crunching. Keeping a soft and strain free posture that opens through the neck and chest.

The Art of Grief

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In Chinese 5 element theory fall is the expression of Metal energy.  Similar to how the chakras are complex, dynamic fields of information, the elements are also fields imbedded within fields that govern our body, mind, and emotions.  When the physical body is ill, it will siphon off energy from the subtle body, pulling it in through the chakra system into the tissues as a way to counter dis-ease.  The elements are qualities of energy that also contract or expand through our bodymind.  While we see the elements express through the physical body, it is more often talked about how these energies influence the mind and emotions.  Metal energy is the energy of grief.  If we aredoing our inner work, grief becomes an energy that we engage with.  Through our own intention and attention we can begin to refine this energy into the effort of purification, release and reverence.  This process is core to the experience of being human. When approached mindfully many discover a divine beauty to the whole experience, in turn transmuting any excessive contraction Metal energy is naturally susceptible to.

Of course grief is experienced daily by most people, but perhaps given its common resonance with autumn, it can feel more overwhelming this time of year.  Depression, sadness, feelings of heaviness or disconnection, emotional waves, cloudiness feeling, colds, flues, lung congestion, changes in digestion, can be expressions of one’s metal energy expressing itself. 

There is no magic prescription for processing grief.  Everyone responds to it in their own way.  I’ve found in working with my own grief and with others, touch and staying present seem key for healing. 

Be in Touch.

I remember a few years ago sitting next to a woman in the airport.  She got off the phone and burst into tears. I turned my attention to her and she said her son had just died. Without thought I hugged her.  I could feel her energy sink into mine and she began to center herself.  Later as I passed by her sitting on the plane she thanked me.  It's a story that has reminded me we shouldn't underestimate how deeply healing touch can be.  

Being touched with good intentions gives us the sense of being seen, cared for, and acknowledged. There is about 5 million sensory receptors on our skin. When we are touched, electrical pulses are sent to our neurons (nerve cells) and then to the spinal cord. Your spinal cord takes the incoming signal and sends it to your brain. Once the brain receives the signal from the spinal cord, it translates the electrical signal. [Source].  As these signals are decoded, our body reduces our cortisone levels, stimulates our immune system by increasing lymphocytes and decreasing cytokines and vasopression. [Source].

Energetically, touch occurs when fields connect, either through proximity or through morphic resonance.  In one study conducted by the HeartMath Institute,  the data showed “when people touch or are in proximity, a transference of the electromagnetic energy produced by the heart occurs.”

Morphic fields are self organizing energetic fields that, according to the work of Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, govern biological and social development, habits, and thoughts.  When morphic fields are in resonance, such as between individuals, the fields act as a channel for communication.  In this way bodies don’t have to be touching, but there is still a sense of it.   Remote healing, telepathy and are good examples of this. 

Be Present.

The basics of wellness care never change, but in times of grief it can be incredibly difficult to do even these.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves of what the basics are and find support in friends and family to make them happen. 

Basics: Support your body. Sleep, but not too much.  Eat (good food), but not too much.  Drink water, fresh juices and teas. Support your liver and colon to make sure your body is flushing out toxins.  Meditate, and move your body throughout the day.  Be in nature.  Be in your body.  Breath mindfully for a few minutes each day.  Balance stillness and movement. 

Deeper:  Turn your attention internally to the experience of grief. Feel it objectively and subjectively.  What happens when you give just a little bit of yourself to it?  What happens when you give all of yourself to it?  Grief is one of our great teachers.  Like all great teachers, it can deliver hard lessons, but once you turn towards it, you might find the wisdom gained positively changes your inner landscape.

How we take in our outer experience and let it shapeshift our inner world of thoughts and emotions, and then take those internal experiences and process them further to illuminate who we are, is an art in and of itself.

Cooling Yoga

Overheated? These postures will be your new best friends. Not only are you creating length within your muscular structure, which may be the first aspect you notice – you are also improving your circulatory, digestive, and immune systems. These systems are associated with the cooling parasympathetic branch of the nervous system (our rest, digest, and heal cycle) and is our body’s natural way to process and release stress hormones. However, with summer temperatures our bodies may need a little extra help to reduce internal heat. Prasarita Padottanasana and Supta Matsyendrasana both create a cooling affect in they body by releasing heat and tension within the abdomen and along the spine. Leaving you feeling refreshed, balanced, and few degrees cooler.

 

Prasarita Padottanasana (Standing Wide Legged Forward Fold)

  • From standing, side step about one leg’s distance so that your feet are parallel to one another.
  • Rotate your toes slightly inward towards each other. Pressing your feet firmly against the ground engage the outer leg, a downward and outward motion.
  • Bring your hand to hips and slightly tip your pelvis forward. Moving the body forward into the balls of the feet.
  •  Release your hands from your hips and rise the shoulders upwards, towards the ears. Externally rotate the arms, bringing the shoulder blades together, and then lower the shoulders down. Keeping the broadness across the collarbones.
  • Bending at hip crease, fold forward by sending the crown of your head forward and towards the ground and yours hips backward and up.
  • Bring your hands to the ground and in line with your heals, fingers forward. Keep your arms straight or to deepen, work to create a 90 degree angle with the elbow. Bringing the crown toward the ground.
  •  Bending at the knee slightly, bring your hips over your heals. Then work to straighten your legs. Keeping the effort of the pose in the feet and legs.
  • Once you have found a stable position, take 5-10 deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Allowing each breath to be longer and slower than the one before. Then return to natural breath.
  • To come out of the pose, bring your hands to your hips and a bend in the knee. Slowly rise up to a straight spine.

Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)

  •  Lie on your back and pull your knees in towards your chest and rock side to side, massaging the low back.
  • With bent knees, set your feet on the ground. Press into your feet to raise your hips off the ground. Set your hips down 1-3 inches to the left.
  • Pull your knees into your chest and then allow your knees to fall the right side.
  • Keep both shoulders secure on the ground and support or adjust the legs as needed.
  • Allow the body to feel heavy for this one. Releasing heat from the core and relaxing the muscles.
  •  Once you have found a stable position, take 5-10 deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Allowing each breath to be longer and slower than the one before. Then return to a natural breath.
  •  Repeat other side.

 

Cooling Pranayama

Sheetali Pranayama

  • Begin in a comfortable seat (note, this breath can also be done standing or laying down).
  •  Rest your hands on your knees.
  • If seated or standing, elongate spine by reaching the crown of the head upward, keeping a slight tuck of the chin.
  • Stick your tongue out and roll the outside edges upward, creating a tube shape.
  • Inhale by drawing the breath through the tongue like a straw.
  • Upon completion of the inhale, bring the tongue back inside the mouth, sealing the lips, and
    pausing the breath for 4 to 8 seconds.
  • When ready, exhale sending the breath out the nostrils.
  • Repeat this process for 5 to 10 breaths.

Can’t roll your tongue? No worries, this next one is for you.

Sitkari Pranayama (teeth hissing breath)

  •  Begin in a comfortable seat (note, this breath can also be done standing or laying down).
  • Rest your hands on your knees.
  • If seated or standing, elongate spine by reaching the crown of the head upward, keeping a slight tuck of the chin.
  • With soft pressure, clench your teeth together and move your tongue away from the teeth.
  • Inhale by drawing the breath through the teeth, creating a hissing sound.
  • Upon completion of the inhale, seal the lips, and pause the breath for 4 to 8 seconds.
  • When ready, exhale sending the breath out the nostrils.
  • Repeat this process for 5 to 10 breaths.

Frequencies of Fire

 

We can see the fire element easiest in the summer as it is the energy that is all around us.

In our body if there is too much fire energy we may experience excess heat, a short temper, being “hot headed,” headaches, irritability, constipation, dehydration, skin conditions, blurry vision, etc.  If there is too little fire we may experience close heartedness, withdrawn, anxiety, coldness in the body, slow metabolism, slow or foggy thoughts, unclear sense of self, etc.

All of these symptoms are clues from our bodymind that we are out of harmony.  If we turn our attention into the experience we are having we can begin to understand why we are out of sync and then we can know if the imbalance is in the physical body or if there is an emotional component.  Notice there are different ways we can examine our experience - if we are anxious or in a lot of pain we may have a hard time quieting the mind to be an objective observant.  But if we can get ourselves to a state of curiosity, a state of wanting to know ones self more, then we may be surprised how much information we can gather just by quieting our mind.  To quiet the mind means to pay attention and in this case, to direct one's attention on the intention.  Here, our intention is to know why there is an imbalance in the bodymind.  When our judging mind is quieted, then we can find the sense of knowingness as to what is causing the imbalance and then use discernment as to how to take action.   Our action may be to eliminate heating foods and to take in more cooling substances (see below).  We may find meditation helps us clear heat, or doing specific body movements.  Or perhaps we have a conflict old emotional habits that is ready to be resolved,  Sometimes just the awareness of the cause of the imbalance begins to resolve it.

Like all of the elements, Fire has many frequencies (vibrations) within its domain.  As it resonates through our emotional, mental and spiritual energy fields we might experience the range of joy and playfulness, to maturation, transformation and love. Our energy follows where we put our attention.  If we put our attention on the desire to have fun, our thoughts and actions will be governed by that desire, and in turn strengthening that vibration within us.  If we’re oriented on a specific life path, we experience the fire frequencies that help us unfold (mature/transform) on our journey.  If we're on a spiritual journey we may experience Tapas, a Sanskrit word meaning "to heat, to give warmth to, to shine, to burn."  This is a frequency of fire that comes from the fire of our kidneys (will power) and the fire of our heart (Love) resulting in the desire and discipline for self purification, orto know one's true self.

Cooling Foods:

 

 

 

From the Cadaver Lab to Holographic Medicine

Just about every January I find myself plotting out what continuing ed courses I’ll be taking in the coming months.  It’s a task I thoroughly enjoy and will spend hours weaving through the web, opening internet tab after tab of links to schools, online courses, programs and speakers from all fields of medicine, art, music and movement.  In these hours I fully immerse myself in dream world as I imagine how I want to unfold as a person in my own joy and wellness and how each opportunity could better hone my skills in the healing arts. 

As I follow this experience through I find myself ecstatically looking at a self- created continuing ed curriculum, composed of books to read, podcasts to listen to, classes to attend, and teachers and peers to reach out to.  This January I found myself brimming with joy as an email from Bastyr University popped up in my inbox announcing offerings this summer.  Top of the list was a cadaver lab.  I didn’t even think twice about it, that one was a must.  As excited as I was about signing up for this class I completely forgot about it in the hustle of all the changes this spring brought for me.  It wasn’t until the weekend before the class when I got the reminder that I lit up again thinking of the experience that await me.  Now I know what you’re thinking… “Cadavers Amber, really?”  But I just had a feeling it was something that would take me much deeper into my practice.

Morning of the lab I weaved my way across the lake to Kenmore.  Sun dancing through the gentle swaying trees, cotton weightlessly floating through the air- it was truly a beautiful June day.  Going to Bastyr is something I rarely have reason to do but always cherish when the occasion arises.  My path in medicine started with the health psyc program at Bastyr, which I changed out of to pursue what, I didn’t know at the time, would turn into an ever-deepening excitement for energy medicine.

The cadaver lab at Bastry is truly a sacred place.  Filled with light, plants and gratitude, the mindful approach of the students and staff is palpable.  We started and ended our days with blessings of gratitude and let our hands and eyes be guided by this profound respect shared by the group.   

We had a small class of 11, and while we were all sharing the same experience we each walked away with a different sense of aliveness and insight.  My insight occurred while looking at a nerve bundle tracking down the inner thigh.  At this point the teacher was pointing out the sensor neurons vs the motor neurons. She was showing how the signals from the tissues move from point A, you can say, to point B and how on a gross level this is the inner workings of body communication. I humored myself when the thought arose in me that linear mapping of the body didn’t make sense to me, but that holographic medicine was key.  This was not a new insight to me per se, as I practice holographic medicine, but it delighted me to be overlaying my broader knowledge of energy to the material workings of the physical body.

The world hologram comes from the Greek words “holos” meaning complete, or whole, and “gram” meaning message.  A hologram is the whole message.  Holography is the study of the three dimensional images created using light waves that interfere with each other, creating an image termed 'hologram'.  This image can be broken down into a number of pieces and each piece with still retain the complete image of the entire hologram. Holographic medicine in western medicine refers to the use of this special imaging for medical diagnosing, practice for students, etc. 

In Chinese Medicine, the principle of holograms is the foundation for energy medicine and is part and parcel of diagnosis and treatment.  Taking the pulses, examining chakras, tongue, face, feet, hands, abdomen, head, and ears are all ways to focus on one part of the whole, but through the lens of seeing that part as the whole.  Not only are parts of the body holograms (whole messages) but each acupuncture point (small chakra) is also a hologram.  What we consider to be parts, are really wholes.  This is why you can put a needle in one persons hand to help relieve their low back pain, but for another person with the same symptom needles are applied to their belly, head, or ankles.  The art of the medicine then becomes observing the hologram (whole message) and responding to that.

 Understanding this intricate and seamless relationship of parts and wholes we can understand why Spiritual Masters have all concluded to change the world you must change yourself. When we start experiencing ourselves as whole messages we find we each have a tremendous capacity to heal ourselves and experience life untethered.

Five Fabrics of Consciousness and Original Frequencies

 

The Chinese 5 element theory describes 5 phases of energy:  Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal.  Each of these energies can be thought of as a distinct vibration.  Vibrations reflect fabrics of consciousness.  This means the qualities of each element manifest in a specific way as determined by the information (frequency) of the field in which it arises.  When we look at the elements as five fabrics, we see they exist in the realm of duality and their natural rhythm is to interpenetrate one another, creating a complicated and dynamic expression of life.  When one of the vibrations (fabrics) is out of balance, it will influence the others, and if the imbalance is great enough, it will change the overall frequency of the life force and we will feel the repercussions in our body, mind and/or emotions.    5 Element acupuncture is a specific form of acupuncture that specializes in perceiving the relationship between the elements and making adjustments to the energy field to optimize harmony.

As mentioned, the 5 elements reside in the realm of duality.  In meditation, we can have an experience beyond duality.  One way to describe this experience is the self tuning into the vibration that penetrates beyond the personality and into the realm of the Soul Plane.  In samadhi, or total absorption, we attune to the frequency that extends beyond the Soul Plane and into the Monadic Plane, the field of Original Consciousness.

Inner plane work is practices that consciously cultivate as a way of seeking what exists beyond our ego.  Our Monadic ray vibrates through all three planes – Monadic, Soul and Personality.  As we refine ourselves the timing becomes ripe for our Soul Rays to penetrate into our denser aspect of our personality.  Then our path shifts from a personal experience to our souls journey.

Esoteric Acupuncture is one tool of many that helps balance the 5 fabrics of consciousness, improving the overall quality health and life experience, and invite the awakening of the Souls Journey. 

antahkarana, Celestial fullness. by Dr. Mikio Sankey

antahkarana, Celestial fullness. by Dr. Mikio Sankey

Asana and the Elements

In its original form asana was an inner practice of devotion, reflection, and communion with our Devine nature.  In modern culture asana is usually taught as a practice of fitness, a shaping and refining of the physical body.   If we come to our mats consistently, even from the perspective of physical practice, the specific shaping of the body can draw one to a profound inner experience.  Depending on timing, this experience can take one deeper into the practice where one engages with asana as was originally intended; a discipline of bringing the mind into the body as a way of self-purification.

As mentioned here, the 5 elements as described in Chinese 5 Element Theory are specific frequencies that exist in duality.  These interconnected frequencies give shape to our personality and physical experience.  When asana becomes a mindful practice the light of the mind penetrates through the cells of the body and the body’s natural intelligence is perceived by the mind.  This union of body and mind is felt like a flooding of light that fills the physical body.  When this happens the energy fields of the body start holding more light, visibly shifting the physical body and enlightening the mind.  This practice of self purification deepens Self Knowledge and creates an inner plane that is ripe for perceiving the more subtle vibrations of our Soul and Original Consciousness. Then asana becomes the practice, the purpose and the wisdom of the seeker.

Amber West

Amber West

Numbers in Love.

Chinese and esoteric teachings discuss the process as numbers.  How originally there was One, then One, split into two, yin and yang (fear/love or contraction/expansion).  Two becomes three (signature for consciousness/Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.) Three reveals four, which gives us "withinness and withoutness"* and then five, which represents magic as seen in nature through the five elements and then six.  Six, which shows the interconnections of all things.  It goes on until we reach 10, and at 10 the ancient Chinese say from 10, comes 10,000 things, or all things.  

Each number reveals a field of consciousness.  This knowledge is important to me as an energy worker because it helps me understand how to move energy through various fields for healing.  But outside of that what value does it have?

It shows there is only one choice ever to be made.  We live in a dual reality.  While we can experience states of Oneness, by nature it is not our primary experience.  So this means all things can come down to yin and yang, Love and Fear.  To see from a numeric standpoint how numbers are esoterically related I think offers a anchor for our worldly perspective and how things exoterically are related.  If we can know from our own experience the state of Oneness, and from our own experience the state of twoness, then we can find compassion, strength, and feel the pulse of souls urgency to choose Love.  

When we can ground into our soul, our capacity to hold the broken heart of the world expands immensely and we become bigger, stronger vessels of Love.

*Buckminster Fuller

Keeping your Chakras Balanced through Winter

Winter is a time of year that resonates strongly with our lower chakras.  Chakra, translates as spinning wheel.  There are many chakras in the body, but there are 7 considered to be the main ones.  These chakras sit along our spine, beginning at our tailbone coming up to our crown. Those who are clairvoyant report each of these chakras is about the size of an orange, spinning 3-dimensionally.   Each chakra acts like an information center.   This information is energy that is expressed through our mind, emotions and body.  When balanced, the chakras allow for higher states of consciousness to be embodied.  When out of balance, the chakras can express as limitations.

Not all texts agree on the information governed by each chakra.  This is partly due to the spinning wheels overlapping.  In esoteric acupuncture the lower two chakras are seen as energies that govern our sense of stability, collective unconscious, power, fame, how we manage our money, and sexuality. When balanced, these chakras create a tremendous amount of strength and solidity within our energy field, and in turn our mind and body.

There are many ways to balance the energies of the chakras, acupuncture is just one of them.  Another way to bring harmony and vitality to these centers is through diet.  Every food and drink has its own vibration.  In Chinese medicine, the etheric spleen is understood as governing the function of absorbing and assimilating these vibrations through our energy field.  This means what we consume becomes a part of us.  If we are eating foods that are dense, or stressing our body out, that energy directly influences our chakras, which in turn influences our mind, emotions, and biology.

Our energy fields are always resonating with the vibrations of nature.  In both spring and fall there is the natural pull to release, making them ideal times of year to clean up our diets and detox.  However, as we consider that the lower chakras are in strong resonance with winter, coupled with our cultural stress with holidays and year end, a little mini cleanse might be helpful to keep you feeling steady.

Shake Off Sugar with the 7-Day MySmart™ Start

As we celebrate the holidays, parties and family gatherings are not the same without delicious foods: puddings, pies, casseroles...you name it!, and good wine.

For people who love to eat, and have a sweet or salty tooth, it's especially during this time of year that cravings heighten. Sugar/refined carbohydrate cravings can lead to hormonal imbalances in the body, increased inflammation, and unnecessary weight gain.

For those looking to ease off sugar/refined carbohydrate cravings in the new year, there's a wonderful program called the 7-Day MySmart™ Start. This program is customizable and is simple to follow, even for busy folks on the go.  

Stepping off the sugar roller coaster does not require eliminating sweets and tasty foods. When we can keep our blood sugar stable, and incorporate balanced macro and micronutrients, taming sugar is doable. We don't need to quit sweets cold turkey, as that can be jarring to the body's system. 

The 7-Day MySmart™ Start takes a holistic approach to easing off sugar cravings,  and support you in your health goals.

In early January 2017, Michelle Wong, Lifestyle + Wellness Strategist, will be guiding a group through the 7-Day MySmart™ Start. This program is perfect for those who wish to ease off cravings, transition to a healthier lifestyle, and experience the positive side benefits, which can include: better sleep, more energy, more calmness, weight loss, decrease in inflammation, and more.

To learn what's included in the 7-Day program, visit http://bit.ly/customkit

For questions and to received a discount in the program, please contact Michelle Wong (michelle@michellewwong.com). Orders must be received by Dec 30th, 2016 to start the program in early January.

- Post contributed by Michelle Wong

 

Healing at Home: How to make use of Entrainment

In vibrational medicine there are three basic ways to work with energy:  1.  You can nourish it from one phase to another.  2.  You can control it 3.  You can entrain it.

We see this beautifully laid out in the Chinese elemental theory as what is called the Shen cycle, one element moving into the next (just like one season moving into the next).  The Ko cycle, where one element controls the other (such as water puts out fire). And entrainment, where the weaker vibration attunes to the stronger vibration (Shaoyin or Heart/Kidney axis). 

While all of these have a place and use, I have found entrainment to be the most helpful for making lasting changes and the easiest tool to use at home.

Entrainment is the process where two interacting oscillating systems assume a common period (Wikipedia). During the period of commonality there is coherence.  Where there is coherence there is greater degrees of wellness, health and awareness.  The Heart Math Institute is one organization that has done quite a bit of research on coherence and what happens to individuals and communities when people start to experience extended periods of synchronicity.

When we’re not in coherent states we can feel anxious, depressed, quick tempered, fuzzy, short attention span, ungrounded and self-conscious.  We can have symptoms like panic attacks, insomnia, digestion disturbance, fatigue, mood swings, emotional instability, and illness.  When we’re in a coherent state we tend to feel more at ease, relaxed, clear headed and grounded.  In this state our body is freed from the tension of being scattered and can heal.

Meditation or focused awareness is the best way that I have found to quickly gain a coherent energetic state.  The question is then, what is it we’re entraining to?  We entrain to the strongest vibration, which most people when they experience it describe it as Love.  In the cycle of the elements the Chinese show how each vibration moves into one another.  This is a natural flow that is constantly happening on micro and macro levels.  They also show the Heart is the first energetic.  It’s described poetically and scientifically how the heart needs to be the most empowered energetic for there to be order, health and wellness within a person’s body, mind and soul.  The energy of Love has the ability unlike any other to create a deep state of coherence.  The Heart field is dynamic, opening and closing depending on our experiences.  The purpose of the meditation is to intentionally move into a state of centeredness, allowing all the fields of your mind and body to be nourished by the powerful energy of Heart Love. 

The Practice.

You can apply the basics of this to do a meditation on each chakra, any organ, feeling or trouble you may be experiencing. 

1.        Sit or lay in a comfortable position.

2.       In your mind’s eye see the area you want to work with.  Sense it.  Stay focused on it.  Don’t analyze it, just stay present with it. 

3.       Draw your mind’s eye to the edge of it.

4.       Become aware of the space around it.  Feel the quiet, pure, strong vibration of that silent space.  If you don’t recognize this space as the quality of Love, intend it to become Love. 

5.       Focusing on the sensation of Love, feel it embrace what you’re working with.  Hold your attention on it.  If whatever you are working on starts to heighten, simply intend increase the envelop of Love around it.  Hold this until the sensation dissipates.

Example:

If you experience anxiety, you can close your eyes and locate where you feel the anxiety.  Once you have a sense of where the anxiety is, hold the sensation of it in your mind.  Start to draw in the sense of Love around it.  If the anxiety feels like it’s growing, hold the Love stronger until it calms down.

 

Eating for Health and Expanded Consciousness

“The seeds of disease – the germ or microbes- would not grow and cause disease unless the terrain of environment was conducive.”  - Claude Bernard, French physiologist

When it comes to nutrition, food is commonly recognized as form of daily physical medicine, but the energetics of food isn’t as discussed.  In this 9 minute video clip by Harry Oldfield you can see the energetic field of organic raw food, compared to over cooked and he talks about the difference between organic and non-organic energy fields:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLYCa2SsNak

While having a healthy food intake is of utmost importance for one’s wellbeing, sometimes it’s not enough.  We also need to consider if the body is able to take in those nutrients:

1.       Stomach enzymes - Enzymes are special proteins that are used in every chemical reaction within the body.  In order to break down foods properly our body creates what we call digestive enzymes.   Once we turn 27 or 28 our body slows down enzyme production, leaving us short on supply for breaking down our food.  Including a digestive enzyme at the beginning of your meal can help your GI tract extract all of the nutrients the body needs from your food.

2.       Pancreatic enzymes are produced in the pancreas and deposited into the duodenum, the beginning of the small intestine.  These enzymes help regulate the acidity of food, and maintain insulin levels to regulate blood sugar levels.  If one has a diet heavy in sugar the pancreas can become overworked and unable to maintain balance.  If this happens the blood becomes overly acidic and becomes a delightful playground for bacteria, fungus and parasites.  Pancreatic enzymes can help keep the blood alkaline and can also be used, along with diet change, to break down the thick cellulous walls found on bacteria (such as candida), fungus, and parasites. 

(For those dealing with auto-immune disorders, you may consider Systemic Enzymes.  Reach out to me for more information.)

3.       Probiotics are the good bacteria in our gut.  They help us breakdown food, making it possible to digest nutrients and directly support our immune system.  Historically people did not need to take supplements of probiotics, but now given the stress of our modern day, how food has changed due to packaging and bioengineering, most people benefit from having a supplement.