Posts Tagged ‘healthy habits’

Changing With The Seasons – Autumn

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Autumn 300x199 Changing With The Seasons   Autumn

As summer draws to a close and we enter into autumn, it’s a good opportunity to pay closer attention to our own health. In Traditional Oriental Medicine, the transitions between seasons are seen as an important period of time in which a person’s body is trying to re-calibrate and stay in harmony and balance with their natural environment.

As the 2,000 year old acupuncture textbook Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) explains, as autumn approaches and the weather turns cooler, a shift in Nature begins and there is a turning inwards of its energy. This shift can clearly be seen in plants which have finished harvesting and now begin to focus inwards on conserving energy into their root system, an example of how the active quality of Yang transforms into the more passive quality of Yin.

The Yellow Emperor goes on to describe how during the summertime, people are usually more physically active and their moods are more relaxed and easygoing. However, as autumn begins, he explains how this should be a time for a person to become more inwardly focused and how learning to maintain a calm and peaceful spirit is an important aspect of this inward focus.

One of the suggestions of the Yellow Emperor to assist with the transition into autumn is to practice breathing exercises. In acupuncture theory, autumn is the season most closely associated with the Lung system, which in Eastern Medicine includes not only the lungs but also other areas of the body including the nasal sinuses, skin, energy circulation, and the immune system. By helping to regulate and strengthen the Lung system, many other aspects of our health can also be improved.

As we get back into our busy regular work and school routines, it’s easy to begin to ignore our health. However, taking a few minutes every day to have some quiet time and just focus on deep relaxed breathing can be a simple way to let go of stress and bring more awareness and vitality to our lives.

Not So Sweet

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Sugar 300x212 Not So Sweet

As we begin the New Year, many of us may have made resolutions to improve our health – whether it was to eat a healthier diet, get more regular exercise, or lose some excess weight.

Perhaps one of the best things we could all do to improve our health would be to go through our kitchen pantry and look for an ingredient hidden in many of our foods without us even realizing it – sugar.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the sweet flavour is understood to help support the Spleen-Pancreas system including digestion, mental focus, and muscle tone.

In ancient times, these nourishing sweet foods took the form of unrefined whole foods such as grains, legumes, root vegetables, and fruit. However, in modern society too much of our food is highly processed and contains various forms of refined sugar which can have completely different effects on our bodies than their whole food counterparts.

A recent article looking at the health effects of sugar cited a study of common everyday food items revealing that more than 2/3 of them contain added refined sugar and that serious chronic health conditions including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are all linked to sugar. Emotional symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, brain fog, and difficulty focusing can also be a result of excess sugar in the diet.

Because sugar can be so addictive, not only on a physical level but also as a temporary emotional comfort, it can be very difficult trying to remove it from our diet. However, small steps can be taken to reduce our refined sugar intake and help to improve our health.

  1. Read those labels – Sugar takes different forms and may be referred to by many other names, including sucrose, glucose, fructose, and corn syrup. The majority of prepared or packaged foods contain some type of added sugar, so careful label reading and comparison shopping can help us make better food choices.
  2. Use healthier sweeteners – Less refined sweeteners such as rice syrup, maple syrup, barley malt, molasses, and dates can provide a healthier alternative to refined sugar to help satisfy a sweet tooth but should still be only used in small quantities. It may take some time to get used to their less sweet flavour but eventually the sense of taste will adapt. Note: The use of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame is associated with its own set of health problems so is best avoided.
  3. Gradual change – Eating more plant-based foods that contain a good balance of complex carbohydrates and protein including chickpeas and black beans, as well as the yellow and orange coloured vegetables such as carrots, yams, and squash can help reduce the cravings when sugar consumption is reduced. Even when it’s difficult to completely stay away from sugar in our diet, it’s good to remember that overindulgence doesn’t have to be permanent and that we can choose to start back up again with healthier eating habits.

Is Your Work Affecting Your Health?

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Work Stress 300x199 Is Your Work Affecting Your Health?

As summer holidays come to an end, most people probably aren’t looking forward to returning back to office drudgery and their regular work routine. Besides the typical mental and emotional stresses that our work environments can create, Traditional Oriental Medicine has recognized for thousands of years that our day to day work activities can also have an effect on our physical health as well.

For example, a sedentary office job that involves sitting at a desk for prolonged amounts of time can cause problems with the tendons and muscles, resulting in stiffness in the shoulders, neck tension, back pain, and headaches. When the body doesn’t get enough physical movement and activity throughout the day, even the digestive system can become weak and sluggish.

For those who spend most of their day stuck behind a desk, taking a few minutes every hour to get up and walk around can be a simple habit to add to your workday. Standing desks are also becoming a popular option, allowing users to easily shift positions throughout the day.

Just as prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle can negatively affect the Liver system, the opposite extreme of too much physical activity can also create an unhealthy imbalance. Repetitive strain injuries, tendonitis, carpel tunnel syndrome, and shoulder pain are some of the symptoms that can result from repetition and overuse.

Becoming more conscious of tension in our bodies can help us learn how to relax and move more efficiently. Proper stretching exercises to relax the tendons can also play an important role in reducing strains and injuries.

Finally, Traditional Oriental Medicine recognizes that overuse of our eyes can also have a negative impact on our health. Because of the connection seen in Chinese medicine between eyesight and blood flow, this overuse can contribute to a condition known as Blood Deficiency, leading to a variety of symptoms including headaches, fatigue, and insomnia.

Staring all day at computers, smart phones, tablets, tv, video games – our eyes are working overtime more than ever. Taking time to disconnect from our electronics and spending time out in nature is important for relieving eye strain. A relaxation technique known as eye palming, which involves rubbing the hands together until they’re warm and then gently cupping them over closed eyes for several minutes, can also be used to relax and refresh the eyes.

The more that we can create healthier habits and become aware of our bodies throughout the day, the more we’re able to experience better health even when at work.

Stepping Into Spring

Monday, March 14th, 2016

Spring Crocus 300x212 Stepping Into Spring

As the trees begin to blossom and spring is just around the corner, it’s a good opportunity to take some time to look after our health for the year ahead.

In one of the oldest writings of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the acupuncture textbook Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) states that:

“The three months of the spring season bring about the revitalization of all things in nature. It is the time of birth. This is when heaven and earth are reborn.”

The Yellow Emperor then goes on to make some practical suggestions for achieving a healthier lifestyle during this time of year:

  1. Get fresh air – If going for nature walks in the invigorating outdoors was suggested 2,000 years ago, how much more are we in need of it nowadays with long hours being spent indoors at the office and workplace? Spring is in the air – literally – so be sure to breathe some in!
  2. Exercise & Stretch – Just as Nature wakes up and becomes more active during the springtime, it’s good for us to take a similar cue in our own lives. Increasing our physical activity levels, including gentle stretching to loosen up those winter couch potato tendons and muscles, is an important aspect of improving our circulation and overall health. Maybe now is a good time to dust off those old New Year’s resolutions of getting more exercise and into better shape.
  3. Regulate the emotions – Perhaps the most important but easily overlooked advice is to regulate and care for our emotional health. Any extreme emotions and stress, but in particular anger and frustration, can be damaging to our health. The two previous points of advice of breathing and exercise can be helpful in this regard due to their calming effect on the body and nervous system. In addition, the lifelong process of learning to let go and forgive can be especially valuable to our own state of health and wellbeing.

Breathing, exercising, maintaining calmness – the Yellow Emperor’s advice from over 2,000 years ago still sounds like a good way to step into spring!

Back To The Grind

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Body Mind Soul Spirit 300x199 Back To The Grind

With the relaxing days of summer drawing to a close, most of us probably find our lives busier than ever. Back to school. Back to work. Back to our everyday routines.

It can be easy to get caught up in the stress and busyness of life and forget about looking after our own health. However, in the 2,000 year old acupuncture textbook the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine), the Emperor’s court doctor gave some simple and practical advice in maintaining a healthy lifestyle:

“In the past, people practiced the Tao, the Way of Life. They understood the principle of balance, of Yin and Yang, as represented by the transformation of the energies of the universe. Thus, they formulated practices such as Dao-in, an exercise combining stretching, massaging, and breathing to promote energy flow, and meditation to help maintain and harmonize themselves with the universe. They ate a balanced diet at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided over stressing their bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgence of all kinds. They maintained well-being of body and mind; thus, it is not surprising that they lived over one hundred years.”

Healthy habits for the body, regulating the emotions for the mind, nourishing the spirit – it was good advice back in ancient times and it’s probably needed now more than ever.

Connecting Your Head and Heart – Creating Lasting Change

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

The following is a guest blog article by Shirley Garrett and Dr. Owen Garrett, Reg’d Psychologist, of Leaps & Bounds Fitness

For many of us, making a resolution is an annual rite of passage that marks our entry into the New Year with a fresh start and a clear point of departure from the past – for a few days and weeks, there is hope that this is the year our resolutions will produce a lasting change.

Alas, for about 80% of us, whatever changes we’ve embarked upon will start to fade and be absorbed back into the old routines within weeks of the New Year. Getting started is not the hardest part to making a change – it is staying the course.

Setting Goals 300x199 Connecting Your Head and Heart   Creating Lasting Change

Here’s one thing to think about that may help you stay the course with achieving your resolutions: it starts with considering what’s in your head and your heart. What is meant here is that it’s important to identify and construct the motivation for your change in terms of Rationality and Logic (i.e. your head) and equally, in terms of Emotion and Desire (i.e. your heart). For lasting change, you must have both.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight, your logical and rational mind might tell you that losing weight is good because it will reduce your risk of developing Type II Diabetes as well as reduce the risk of having a heart attack. Those are great reasons and there’s plenty of medical research to demonstrate that loss of weight will reduce these health risks. However, if information was all that was needed for lasting behaviour change, we would all be on the road to immortality by considering how much health information we’re exposed to!

In other words, the rational mind is great for alerting us to what we should do, but information itself doesn’t give us the “oomph” to make the change and stick with it. For that, we need to challenge ourselves on a more emotional level. We need to give ourselves time to carefully answer questions like:

  • How would my life be different if I lost weight?
  • Would I have more energy? Sleep better?
  • If I lost weight, would I feel better? How meaningful would that be to me?
  • Would I feel better about myself? Have more confidence and a better self-image?

Important tip: It’s far more powerful to write down your answers to these questions rather than to just think about them.

The neuroscience of behaviour change tells us that while knowledge and intellect can point us in the right direction, it’s our emotional attachment to the change that provides the drive and energy necessary to maintain that change.

The bottom line is that we need to involve both our head and heart in order to make the commitment to change that remains durable in the face of the inevitable bumps in the road that would otherwise derail even the best of our intentions.

Happy New Year!

For more information about creating lasting change and achieving your health and fitness goals, you can contact Shirley and Owen Garrett at Leaps & Bounds Fitness

Unbalanced

Monday, December 16th, 2013

The healing art of KoKoDo Shiatsu, like other methods of Traditional Oriental Medicine such as acupuncture and moxibustion, seeks to regulate and correct imbalances within the body, helping to restore a person to a healthier state of balance.

On the other hand, using the theory of Yin-Yang mutual opposites, its related martial art of KoKoDo JuJutsu actually creates more imbalance in a person and is a practical self-defence art aimed at neutralizing and subduing a violent attacker in a humane and non-injuring manner.

However, many of these martial art concepts can also be applied to everyday life and with continued practice help a person to become healthier.

Balance – one of the most fundamental concepts in KoKoDo JuJutsu is that of kuzushi, or creating off-balance in an attacker. More specifically, the skeletal structure of the aggressor is compromised, primarily by affecting the vertical alignment of their head, spine, pelvis, and feet. By creating these subtle shifts in balance, the attacker loses their power and can then be easily thrown with minimal effort.

Many common activities such as desk work and computer use tends to create bad posture in our body structure – we slouch in our chairs or have poor alignment as we strain to look at our computer screens, creating tension and imbalance in our necks, backs, and hips.

By paying more attention to our own body alignment throughout the day and making appropriate adjustments to our work environments, we can maintain better posture which helps to lessen the strain on our bodies and allows us to function more efficiently.

Tension – KoKoDo JuJutsu makes use of atemi-waza, or the touching, manipulation, and striking of various acupuncture meridians and points, in many of its techniques. The main purpose is to create tension, fear, and pain in the attacker’s body and mind which then facilitates locking, controlling, and subduing them.

As anyone who has experienced Shiatsu massage knows, areas of tension in the body can be quite painful and sensitive to the touch when being worked on. Learning how to relax these tight areas, whether by shiatsu, yoga, stretching, or other similar methods, can be useful for relieving tension and pain as well as allowing for more circulation of blood and energy to help promote the body’s own healing abilities.

Breath – students of KoKoDo JuJutsu spend half of their time taking ukemi, or receiving techniques, getting tossed around the mats with painful wristlocks and throws. In order to practise and receive these techniques safely, students learn how to relax when getting thrown and part of this training is knowing how to breathe properly in order to absorb the pain and force without being injured.

Most people tend to unconsciously hold their breath and create tension in their abdomen and ribcage when concentrating on a work task at hand or when under stress.

Learning how to pay attention to our breathing patterns throughout the day and becoming more conscious of proper deep abdominal breathing helps to relax the body, calm the mind, and allows us to be better able to deal with stress whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional.

For more information about the Traditional Japanese art of KoKoDo, you can visit Hombu Jikimon Sadohana Dojo

Pathway to Health

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Lao Tzu

Most of us begin the New Year with best of intentions for our health – just ask anyone who works at a fitness gym and they will probably tell you that January is one of their busiest months as people attempt to follow their New Year’s resolutions and get into shape. Unfortunately, after a month or two the gym usually clears out and it’s back to just the regulars training again.

It can be difficult to set goals or resolutions and see them through to completion. However, the Eastern approach to things can be useful in helping us along the way.

For instance, it is insightful to note that many of the names for traditional Japanese arts end with the suffix “do”, e.g. Bu-do (martial arts), Cha-do (tea ceremony), or Sho-do (calligraphy).

Do Kanji Pathway to Health

Japanese Kanji for "Do" - Pathway

This word “Do” (Dao in Chinese) represents a pathway or journey and typifies the attitude and approach taken when training in these arts – rather than just learning simple acts of self-defense, making tea, or beautiful writing, these practices are a lifelong journey of development and refinement for the practitioner.

Some of these ideas can be useful when applied to our own journey towards improving our health.

  1. The small steps are important – although drastic action or big changes are sometimes needed along our journey, most of the time it’s usually just about putting one foot in front of the other. It’s all of the small seemingly insignificant choices and actions that we make day-to-day that add up over the years. Starting with small but consistent actions can create lasting changes for improving our health.
  2. Progress is not steady – when training in traditional arts, as in life, sometimes it feels like we’re making good progress and reaching our goals, other times it can seem like we’ve reached a plateau or even going downhill. This is to be expected, since life is about constant change, but if we keep moving forward one small step at a time, progress is being made whether it feels like it or not.
  3. The journey is for life – in contrast to some sports where full intensity is always applied, leading to frequent injuries, long recovery times, and decreased performance with ageing, training in traditional martial arts such as KoKoDo JuJutsu is conducted at a certain intensity level so that practice can be done every day for life, injuries are minimized, and practitioners can keep training and improving well into their senior years. In a similar manner, positive changes, no matter how small, should be a lifelong daily discipline. For example, crash or fad diets usually don’t work in the long run, since diets by their very nature tend to be temporary. However, by committing to simple lifestyle changes such as more whole foods and minimizing processed foods, better and long lasting results can often be obtained.

As we continue our journey along the pathway to good health, wishing you the best as we step into the New Year!

No Mind

Monday, November 5th, 2012

“Like the calm still surface water that reflects the moon and a flying bird, true living calmness is the condition of our mind that reflects all things clearly.”

Tohei Koichi – Ki Sayings

A frequently heard comment from people coming in for acupuncture and shiatsu treatment is that they struggle with “over-thinking”, finding it difficult to quiet the mind as a thousand thoughts constantly race through their head.

This problem seems to be common for most people in our modern society and not just in cases such as anxiety, depression, or insomnia.

How does one quiet the mind? In traditional martial arts training is a concept known as mushin. Literally translated as “no mind” or “empty mind”, mushin is sometimes compared to the calm surface of a lake which provides a clear reflection of its surroundings.

For example, in the martial art of KoKoDo JuJutsu, powerful yet effortless technique is developed in part by the cultivation of mushin – learning how to abandon one’s physical and mental tension and stress while at the same time being able to relax and properly focus the mind and body.

Learning how to calm our minds takes a lifetime of practice. However, some useful daily habits to help people begin to develop a mental state of calmness include:

  1. Be in the moment – regular physical exercise can be helpful in calming the mind. Whether it’s participating in a fitness class, going for a bicycle ride, or just walking in the neighbourhood park, physical activity can be a simple way of engaging in the present moment and helping a person leave the day’s worries and thoughts behind them.
  2. Quiet time – turning off the tv, radio, cellphone, and countless other distractions and spending time just sitting and doing nothing alone in silence, even just 10 minutes, can be a good start. It may be difficult when first beginning, but with continued practice becomes more comfortable as we are able to remain in a state of relaxed silence for longer periods of time and with less distraction.
  3. Breathe – in Eastern thought, there is no separation between the mind and body – stress and tension in one can affect the other. Many people tend to subconsciously hold their breath when under stress. By becoming self-aware of this and relearning how to relax and breathe, both the body and mind are able to become more calm.

New Beginnings

Sunday, January 1st, 2012
DesertFathersNewBeginning 229x300 New Beginnings

Desert Wisdom: Sayings From The Desert Fathers - Translation & Art by Yushi Nomura

Health, like life in general, is a journey, a process of constant change. Sometimes we have ups, sometimes downs, sometimes moving forwards, sometimes backwards.

Many of us start out the New Year with good intentions for making positive changes in our lives. Unfortunately, all too often this does not last for long. Establishing healthy habits takes practice and effort, and usually involves some failures along the way.

However, one of the important success factors for staying on track is to focus on the present moment. Yesterday is over and done with, tomorrow is just another excuse to procrastinate - only today are we able to take action.

Each new day, we’re given another chance to start over again; every day is an opportunity to make a fresh beginning.

Becoming More Aware Of Your Health

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

In the traditional martial arts is a concept known as zanshin. Literally translated as “remaining mind”, zanshin refers in part to a state of calmness and complete awareness of one’s surroundings, even when there appears to be no immediate threat or danger.

A keen awareness of our environment, both internal and external, is also an important concept in Traditional Oriental Medicine. Because symptoms are viewed as being the result of imbalances in the body, becoming more aware of ourselves and what creates these imbalances in our lives can be useful for improving our health.

Various factors can affect our health, such as:

  • type of work we do
  • location & climate we live in
  • seasonal weather changes throughout the year
  • thoughts & emotions, especially those that tend to be repressed
  • daily eating habits
  • exercise type and frequency
  • trauma & accidents

One suggestion for people suffering from chronic health problems is to keep a health journal. By tracking changes on a day to day basis, patterns can often be discovered, such as certain trigger factors that tend to make symptoms better or worse.

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Healthy Habits

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

As a New Year begins, many of us tend to make resolutions for ourselves, whether it’s losing weight, getting in better shape, or improving our overall health.

Unfortunately, most resolutions – however good-intentioned they may begin – don’t seem to last for very long. Our modern society, with a focus on quick fixes, immediate results, and instant gratification, makes it easy to fall back into old habits and patterns.

In the East, a different approach to self-improvement is taken. In fact, much could actually be learned from the Japanese manufacturing field where they used a concept known as kaizen to become world leaders in the automotive and electronics industries. (more…)