Friday, June 3, 2016

Things I'm Loving: 2

As per usual, I'm way overdue for a post and I want to post something, so I'm taking the easy road and sharing more things that I especially love right now. Enjoy!

1. Traditional Medicinals Roasted Dandelion Root Tea
Besides having numerous health benefits, I really love the taste of this tea. It's roasty and sweet and tastes slightly like coffee. I like to brew 2-3 bags at a time (usually overnight) and drink hot or iced with coconut milk.

2. Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss Of The Foods We Love by Simran Sethi
Such an interesting, engaging, and entertaining book about five foods: cacao, coffee, wine, beer, and bread, and the issues surrounding loss of biodiversity, the production of, and the changing ecosystem that threatens these foods. Highly recommended for anyone concerned or curious about hoe their food is produced and the impact on the farmers and ecosystem.

3. Al Wadi Natural Rosewater
I found this rose water while shopping at the international market. I have to admit that I bought it partially because I loved the frosted glass bottle (and I was out of rose water). I'm super pleased with this particular rose water! It smells gorgeously fresh and slightly fruity, just like an actual rose (no fusty grandma rose smell here!). I use it as my toner to soften and calm my skin, and I mist my face with it if my skin needs some cooling down. It would also be fab added to cocktails, spritzers, and sweet things.

4. ReserveAge Collagen Replenish Powder
I've used numerous brands of collagen powder over the past few years, and though I know it's beneficial for healing connective tissue, the gut lining, and hair/skin/nail health, I can't say that I've ever noticed any of the purported beauty benefits. This collagen is different. Maybe it's due to the inclusion of hyaluronic acid, or maybe it's the specific form of collagen peptides, but my skin is noticeably more hydrated. This powder mixes easily into beverages and I usually add it to my coffee or tea.

Several of the links I've provided for products are from iherb.com, where I do a lot of my supplement shopping. If you've never shopped at iherb, here's my referral code for $5 off your first order: HAZ439

Happy summer!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Things I'm Loving, Volume 1

I always like to see what's working for other people and improving their lives. So, I've decided to start a very informal series that I plan to be ongoing, detailing random things I've discovered that have made my life better in some form. I hope you enjoy my first edition.

D Minder app.
This free app is so helpful and satisfying to use. It calculates how much vitamin D you can make based on your location, angle of the sun, time of day, UV index, your skin color, and how much clothing you're wearing. I have to say that I find it really fun to see the estimated I.U.'s being caluculated as I get some sunshine and it motivates me to get outside during my D window.
If you live in a part of the world where you aren't able to make vitamin D this time of year, it'll tell you exactly how many days until you can!

Choice Organics Wild Forest Black Tea
This lovely black tea is smooth and a little bit floral and so reasonably priced (score!!). It reminds me of my beloved Yunnan teas, which are also harvested from mature, old tea trees, rather than from bushes. I save my bag and brew a second cup in the afternoon.

Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
This book really changed how I view movement has and shown me that proper "nutritious" movement and the mechanotransduction (the signals our movement sends to our cells) it creates, is just as vital to cellular health as food, sleep, and supplements. I'm much more motivated to vary my movement and loads and to work on correcting some unhealthy patterns of movement I have. Also, Katy is kind of hilarious. I really enjoy her writing style.

Briogeo Blossom and Bloom Ginseng + Biotin Volumizing Shampoo
I'm actually testing this shampoo right now for another website and I. LOVE. IT. I have medium-fine hair and this stuff really delivers on volume, but not at the expense of shine or softness. My hair is so happy and bouncy and even retains a bit of bounce on the days I don't wash it. It also smells nice (it has a grapefruit-orange scent with a faint hint of ginger), lathers well without drying, and has no sulfates, parabens, gluten, or artificial fragrance (which I don't tolerate well). Win-win.

Stay tuned for more things I'm loving!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Qigong For Autumn: Strengthening Lung Energy

Happy Autumn!
I've been wanting to do a simple series on seasonal qigong exercises for awhile and now seems like a good time.

Qigong (pronounced "chee-kung"), like Tai Chi, is a meditative movement and breathing practice that circulates energy through the meridians of the body. It loosely translates to "energy skill." Medical Qigong is a form that focuses on strengthening and balancing the energy of specific organs. You don't have to be flexible or strong to practice it. You don't need a mat or special clothing. In fact, many movements can even be done sitting in a chair if you're feeling especially weak or fatigued. It's something that nearly everyone can do safely and it's a very healing modality for people with chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue. Ideally, you want to establish a consistent practice, even if it's only for a few minutes a day. Consistency is important.

Since it's Autumn, we'll start with the lungs. This is the perfect time of year to work on strengthening and balancing our lung qi, as well as to release negative emotions that are associated with the lungs which often tend to arise during Autumn.

As the weather gets cooler and the humidity of summer leaves, the seasonal energy shifts to the element of metal, which corresponds to the energy of the lungs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs are impacted by the negative emotions of sadness and grief. They are the bellows which move qi throughout the body and they govern the energy of our protective energy field called the Wei Qi field, which corresponds to our innate immune system, and works to keep pathogens at bay. Each organ has both positive and negative traits and emotions associated with it and the positive traits of the lungs are courage and integrity. Qigong can help us to develop those positive traits over time. Each organ is also represented by a color and an animal. In the case of the lungs, the color is white and the animal is a white tiger. I like to imaging that the white tiger is the part of my immune system that prowls about, protecting me from pathogens. Good kitty.

Symptoms of lung energy imbalances include obvious lung issues like asthma, coughs, bronchial issues, sinus problems, and allergies, but also constipation (the lungs are partners with the large intestines), and skin problems like dry skin and eczema, since the lungs influence our skin's protective mechanisms.

Taking a few minutes every day to do a simple qigong exercise that strengthens and balances lung energy can help us to prepare for the immune challenges of winter, as well as to release sadness, grief, and any excessive pensiveness that may arise with the seasonal shift. If you'd like to focus on releasing emotions, you can add a "Sssssssss" sound on the exhale while you imagine grief and sadness exiting your body with your breath. This vibrates the lungs to help release the stuck energy of sadness and grief. This article explains more about how the lungs are impacted by grief and it contains helpful tips, including dietary tips, to cultivate healthy, balanced lung energy.

Below is a video with a simple exercise to balance and strengthen lung energy. Remember to keep your breathing relaxed and breathe into your belly, rather than into your chest and shoulders. I like to imagine my breath as if it's dropping down through one of those narrow-necked squashes and expanding once it reaches my belly. This video is great for learning qigong breathing. Another tip that increases the effectiveness of qigong breathing is to keep your perineum gently contracted to "seal" in all the energy that accumulates in your lower abdomen. This is a technique that is often not taught to qigong beginners, but it makes a difference.

If you'd like to incorporate some healing color imagery, you can imagine that you are inhaling white energy or white light, the color of the lung/metal element. I like to do a few repetitions of "channel dredging" before I begin any qigong movements. Channel dredging opens up the channels/meridians for better energy flow. It's also energizing and can feel great to do when you want to release the feeling of having negative or blocked energy or just need to blow off some steam.

If you are interested in learning a complete qigong routine that includes all of the organs, I highly recommend the dvd Chi Kung- The Healing Workout. It includes an extra section on proper form, which is helpful and makes a difference in how effective your practice is. This is the same routine I learned in Medical Qigong school.

Here's to happy, healthy lung energy and a wonderful Autumn!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Going Deeper On The Healing Path

I've been thinking a lot lately about the parts of healing that have nothing to do with diet, supplements, or even exercise. Things that connect us to the power of nature. Things that feed our souls. Things that heal our hearts. When we are disconnected from these things, wholeness and healing don't happen to their fullest capacity.

I mentioned in my last post that I was about to start participating in a small, online live chat group based around mind-body-emotional healing- specifically around using Love as a healing agent. I'm now two sessions into the group and it's been opening up a lot of insight for me. The other participants and I had a laugh relating over how we've all reached a level of burnout regarding reading health blogs/books, and attending online summits (doesn't it seem like there's one every week now?). Basically, information overload. It's being made clear to me that your brain will only get you so far when it comes to real healing. I'm finding some of the most powerful healing tools for me lately have me looking for and finding answers in my heart and soul.

This is kind of personal, but I'll share because I always appreciate when bloggers are willing to get personal and real. A few months ago, I had a session with a medical intuitive. I wanted an overview of how my body was doing, and I wanted to know what would help my insomnia and hormones. Like I talked about in my last blog, the answer to that bout of insomnia was getting better connected to the seasonal and circadian light cycles. Connected to nature.

The answer to the hormone question was an interesting one. The intuitive saw that I was a creative person, but was very disconnected from my creative energy, while my analytical side had become very dominant. Ultimately, what does the reproductive/hormonal system deal with? Creation. I had a huge ah-ha moment when I realized this! The creativity thing came up again in the online group. The facilitator, who is very intuitive, felt guided to ask me why I had shut down my creative side, which had very much flourished until sometime in my teens. At the time, I couldn't answer. She told me that creativity was my path to healing.

Since then, I've done a lot of soul/heart-searching and had some huge insights about issues relating to some stressful periods in my childhood and adolescence where I didn't have a sense of security in my life. It's hard to feel free to create when you don't feel secure. Dealing with these traumas, though they didn't feel like dramatic traumas at the time, has been important.

I also realized that I had become very ungenerous with myself, living from a perspective of lack and restraint, rather than from one of abundance and opportunity. It's amazing how it manifested in so many areas of my life, and all the little things I was denying myself because of it. Realizing how suppressed my creative energy had become and how ungenerous I was toward myself gave me the sense that my soul was starving for nourishment. When I explored why I had become so ungenerous with myself, I became aware of feeling guilty for being unwell, for not working full time like "normal" people, and for the burden it has placed on my husband (even though he's made it clear that I'm not a burden). So, basically, it was a way of punishing myself or paying a sort of penance. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the case for a lot of people with chronic illness.

All of this has led me to do some serious re-evaluating about where I should be placing my focus and spending my energy. I started by making a big list of the traits of my "real" self- the self I knew myself to be as a child, and the self that lurks underneath all the baggage. It was really freeing to write all of that out and reconnect to the idea of that version of myself. I highly recommend it! Next, I wrote a list of things I could do to nourish and heal that "real" self. What kind of activities make her happy? What sort of things feed her soul? What gives her energy? That list was so much fun to make and made me feel hopeful.

So, here are some of the things so far that I'm finding healing and transformative. A lot of them happen in the morning because I find it helpful to start my day with a lot of intention and it keeps me more centered, focused, and energetic later in the day. That's a big deal for a non-morning person like me: no more stumbling out of bed and straight onto the internet!

-Spending time in the morning sun

I wake up in the morning, drink a big glass of chlorophyll water, make my tea, and head outside, first thing, to sit in the grass and sunshine for a little while. I find that grounding myself to the earth electrically and energetically, makes a big difference in my physical energy levels, as does getting morning sunshine. It syncs me up with the daily circadian rhythm. I've also learned that morning sunlight is a source of infrared light, which helps our cells to function properly. We also absorb units of light from the sun called biophotons. Chlorophyll happens to be fab for aiding biophoton absorption and increasing mitochondrial function.

-Reading, journaling, and setting intentions for the day
I love to read an excerpt from Wayne Dyer's book of daily essays on living the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching. I find it incredibly grounding and it reminds me of the person I want to become. I check my "real self" lists to remind myself of where my focus should be.

-Morning Qigong
The form of qigong I practice is similar to tai chi, but with more of an emphasis on directing energy flow through specific organs. Standing barefoot in the grass, breathing deeply, connecting to the earth, quieting my mind, and feeling energy in my hands is magical. I've had a consistent practice since January, but I've found that doing it in the morning is so much more beneficial and powerful.

-Purging belongings that don't suit or serve me

A few weeks ago, I listened to an audio download of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I LOVED it! It just really clicked with me and made so much sense. I've been purging categories of stuff and it feels very liberating and energizing to keep only that which either "sparks joy" or is necessary. Our stuff tells the story of who we are and who we've been. It's good to let go of that which no longer tells the story you want to be living.

-Being more generous to myself

Once I realized how I needed to be more generous with myself, the first thing I did was I bought a new (well, used, but new for me) purse to replace the old, tired one I'd had for years. My new purse is stylish, golden yellow, and cheerful, and I feel good every time I pick it up. It serves as a reminder to keep being generous and kind to myself. I bought myself some new makeup, instead of just making do with the old makeup that I wasn't really liking that much. I'm about to order some adult coloring books so I can indulge my creative side in a fun way. These are all little things, but they feel huge to me!

-Giving my brain time-outs
Sometimes I just sit outside and stare at the sky and trees. Or I lay on my bed and listen to soothing music. It feels wonderful when I force my always-going mind to settle down for a bit and stop analyzing. It's so easy to get stuck in constant information mode when you've been trying to heal and figure out an illness. But too much mental work is NOT healing (otherwise, I'd be the healthiest person ever!).

I'm still working on recovering my creative mojo, but I'm enjoying the reconnection that's happening. It brings me a deep sense of satisfaction- the kind you experience when you're being true to yourself, when your soul feels nourished. I feel hopeful about my future and I'm excited about the possibilities it holds.