Digestion, Immunity & Eating with the Holidays

Digestion, Immunity & Eating with the Holidays

This 5-minute video discusses foods to consume and lifestyle habits to adopt during the holiday season, in order to counteract our sluggish digestion and lowered immunity during this time of year.

How & Why Tai Chi Works

How & Why Tai Chi Works

In this country, our cultural propensity is to engage in stenuous, high-intensity activity as our primary form of exercise.  The general consensus is, the harder, faster, and more intense an exercise is, the better it is for us.  While studies are now showing the tremendous benefit of short burst, high-intensity, interval training and its effect on human metabolism and stress reduction, there are also other points to consider.  If exercising were graphed on a spectrum, high-intensity exercise is indicative of only one end of that spectrum.  On the other end of that spectrum we would find the practice of Tai Chi, which engages exercise in a softer, more refined, internally focused, and relaxed manner to support, augment, and restore our collective health.  Like most things in life, its is not a single element or practice that brings us health, but rather, a synergy, balance, and confluence of multiple elements that bring us into dialogue with radiant health.  This article is not aiming to criticize or diminish your current exercise practices, but rather to consider the alternative and complementary benefits Tai Chi has to offer you, in addition to your current health and exercise practices.

So how does Tai Chi work?  To answer this question, we must first look at some of the core tenets and principles that comprise the practice of Tai Chi:

1)  Breathing

2)  Posture & bio-mechanical structure

3)  Intent & Movement

 

BREATHING:  In the practice of Tai Chi, breathing is centralized in the lower abdomen, in an area referred to as the lower dantien ("don-tee-en") in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  The core of lower dantien resides in the center of the body, three finger-widths below the belly button, and is better conceptualized as an area rather than a single point.  That said, numerous organs, bones, and muscles are influenced by the function of the lower dantien.  Some of these are:  small intestine, large intestine, bladder, psoas muscle, perenium, anal sphincter, sacrum, pelvis, and lumbar vertabrae.  

 

By breathing and relaxing into this lower abdominal area, this region is better oxygenated and receives improved blood circulation.  Given that 95% of the body's seratonin (the body's "feel good" hormone) is produced in the small intestine, increased blood flow and oxygenation into this area of the body is excellent for our physical and emotional health.  Practitioners of Tai Chi often report feeling emotionally balanced, content, centered, sporting an improved mood after practice.  This is because the enhanced blood and oxygen flow in the lower dantien nourishes the energetics of the small intestine, thus producing "feel good" chemicals in the body.  In addition to this, when the small intestine and large intestine are nourished, our processes of digestion and bodily elimination are improved, thus contributing to a cleaner and healthier body.

POSTURE & BIO-MECHANICAL STRUCTURE:  A very large piece of Tai Chi practice is learning how to develop a highly sensitive and refined level of proprioception, which is essentailly how "body-sensitive" we are in terms of physical sensation and spatial orientation.  By refining our levels of personal proprioception, we become sensitive to the effects posture has on our moods, how pain is often related to poor structure, and how proper bodily structure yields intelligent, effortless, and efficient movement.  In the practice of Tai Chi, the emphasis is to take excessive tension out of the musculature, align our bones for optimal structural support, and to let the soft tissues like ligaments, fascia, and tendons, support the bodily weight of our posture.  When the body is aligned according to the tenets of Tai Chi, these softer tissues between bones act as "shock absorbers" to our bodies' and create a sense of "springiness" and pliability as we move.  As excessive muscular contractions decrease, the body and mind release collective tension, cortisol/stress hormone levels drop, and the central nervous system begins to relax, allowing our bodies to begin to repair themselves as needed.

INTENTION & MOVEMENT:  This point is often lost on most people.  The notion of "using our intent" is vague at best for most of us, but is at the crux of good Tai Chi practice.  In an attempt to bring some basic clairty to this point of confusion, for a moment, gently open and close your hand, going from a fully tensed fist, all the way back to a fully open and relaxed palm.  Do this slowly and mindfully.  Repeat once more...

Now close your eyes and envision an apple in your mind's eye.  Picture it clearly as if you were about to pick it up and eat it...

This time, repeat this same exercise but instead of envisioning an apple in your mind, visualize an orange glowing ball of light in your lower abdomen.

Now ask yourself, how did you do any of these things?  The obvious answer you probably hear internally is, "I just did it." These simple exercises point to the nature of intent.  It is the unspoken, non-verbal commands we give to our bodies and minds on a daily basis.  No words or verbal commands are said to ourselves in our minds to implement the things we wish to do; we simply "do them."  

In the practice of Tai Chi, the intent that emits from our brain/central nervous system that signals us to move, is attempted to be felt.  As we learn to feel our intent and become more sensitive to it, we begin to refine the energetic quality of our intent through refined breathing, good posture, and the intentional focus of the mind.  As we move in Tai Chi, we strive to consciously feel the intention used to make our bodies move.  This is not an easy task, but the fruits of this labor are deeply rewarding to our health over time.  To feel the "current" of our intention, slow movements are favored over fast ones, because slowness provides a greater sensitivity in our minds and bodily systems.  This is why Tai Chi is practiced in a slow and deliberate manner.  

Imagine pulling a band-aid off very slowly or very quickly.  Which is going to make you more aware of the individual hair follicles slowly being pulled from the skin?  This analogy also points to why some people struggle emotionally with the practice of Tai Chi as well, because as we move slowly, we are confronted with our emotions as we scan and move through our interior landscape.   All too often, both beginners and devout practitioners get wrapped up in looking "deep and spiritual" as they move slowly through their Tai Chi form, focusing on the aesthetic beauty of the form, rather than honing in on the functional medicine the movements provide. This is not to downplay the grace and beauty present in Tai Chi because more often than not, people actually take up the practice of Tai Chi based on the beauty they see when Tai Chi is performed, myself included.  However, beauty and grace in Tai Chi cannot supercede the health benefits found in Tai Chi.  We come to Tai Chi to build and restore health.  If our alignments are good, our posture natural, and our breathing sound, grace and beauty come naturally.  We must all be brought back to a simple truth:  the slow movements of Tai Chi are wholly functional and should be practiced attentively and mindfully.  Beauty and grace are a by-product of this process.

In addition to all this, the movements found in Tai Chi are designed to stimulate enregetic flow in the organ meridian pathways used in acupuncture.  The points used in acupuncture to treat various ailments are stimulated and internally "massaged" during good Tai Chi practice.  In a sense, the practice of Tai Chi can be likened to a form "self-administered acupuncture."  For the sake of ease and simplicity, the mechanics of acupuncture pathway stimulation in Tai Chi movements will be reserved for a separate article.

While the above mentioned is only the very tip of a very large Tai Chi iceberg, these points are foundational elements as to how and why Tai Chi works.

Happy training, everbody.  Be well.

The Importance of Clearing Clutter

The Importance of Clearing Clutter

The breadth of Feng Shui in its entirety is a life-long course of study.  It is a system filled with depth, tradition, practicality, and grace.  With that being said, attempting to wield the wisdom of Feng Shui and its tremendous wealth of information and applications, can often seem daunting to novice practitioners.

Many people often find themselves asking, where do I begin?

In any tradition of Feng Shui, the first step to implement any aspect of the practice, is to clear all clutter from one’s environment.  If this clearing of clutter does not take place, the fruits of Feng Shui practice will have no foundation from which to grow.  This seemingly mundane principle (and usuallly the most difficult) is very core of Feng Shui practice, regardless of the system or style of Feng Shui being practiced.

The next question people usually have is, what classifies as clutter?

While the answer to this question is unique to every person, the simplest and most universally relevent questions to ask yourself about the art, images, and objects within your space(s) are:

Is it functional?  Is it beautiful?  Do I love it?

If you answer 'yes' to 2/3 of these questions in regards to the art, image, or object at hand, then it is NOT clutter.   If you answer 'no' to 2/3 of these questions, it IS clutter.  In an ideal 'Feng Shui world,' all art, images, and objects in your environments would be functional, beautiful, and lovable.  But as most of us know, life is often far from ideal, so do the best you can with what you've got.

Clearing clutter is more than keeping space "clean."  It's a practice that brings us into a living dialogue with the relationship between ourselves and our environment.  Moreover, our external environments directly correlate to what's happening inside of us.  For example, if we walk into a home with stacks of unopened mail, we are lead to assume a number of things.  It could point to a procastinating or avoidant nature.  Perhaps they are overworked.  Perhaps they've been on vacation.  Regardless of the root cause, the environment points to a mechanism between the space and its inhabitants.  By clearing unnecessary clutter, we begin to address our inner processes of disharmony. 

When beginning your practice of keeping your home or office free of clutter, remember that you are in essence, engaging a practice to establish mental clarity. You are not learning how to “clean.” Routinely remind yourself of this as your practice evolves. Its what allows you step outside of seeing your practice as a monotonous chore. Know and trust that you are embarking on an artistic exploration of yourself. In the beginning, it can be difficult to keep any area clean for any amount of time, but I assure you, it does become easier with time. The theory of yin and yang points to the interdependence of polar opposites as the basis for balance and harmony in nature, i.e. with night there is day, with positive there is negative, with death there is birth. By experiencing opposition, we come to understand our existence. If we never experienced light, we would never value darkness. In addition to this, this continual dance of opposition is cyclical. All oppositions repeat themselves; day to night, night to day, and so on. We spend many hours in our days tending to the necessities of daily living, but ultimately, we must retire to bed, shut down, and slumber in darkness. Fighting these natural cycles aligns us with ill health over time. This cyclical process in nature paints a beautiful metaphor for our practice with Feng Shui. As we grow, heal, and attend to our interior landscapes, at some point, we then must venture out into our external environments to do the same. Moving from internal to external is as perennial as the seasons and is just as important as any other cycle in nature. It too should be honored, nourished, and attended to. To remain in either environment for too long will ultimately create disharmony within ourselves and in our lives. Tending to clutter and being mindful of our environments becomes an extension of tending to our inner and emotional terrain. This gives us a way to leap forward when we’ve reached plateaus in our inter-personal growth. Again, Feng Shui is a tool, and tools are meant to be used in different capacities at different junctures. When our minds have run ourselves ragged from the inside, it may be time to consider looking outside. Shaping and molding one’s environment then becomes a natural extension to reshape our minds and emotional patterns. When we can no longer be with the chatter of our minds, shifting our 3-D environment can act as a catalyst to proverbially burn the candle from the other end. It is a natural and harmonious way to reassess and restructure our lives. The art of Feng Shui embodies life and naturalistic cycles when it has rich soil to root into. In this case, rich soil is dependant upon spaces free from clutter. From here, rooting our lives becomes palpable and more importantly, possible. Having less, minimizing, and consolidating our environments yields greater mental/emotional clarity and allows us to find our own unique expression Feng Shui. Feng Shui is seen as a living system eager to aid us in our journey of evolution and self knowledge. But our spaces must be clear. From that space, we can begin to grow our environments, and therefore, our lives.

The Benefits of Bone Broth (w/ recipe)

The Benefits of Bone Broth (w/ recipe)

  • “Like is good for like”:  In Chinese Medical Theory, philosophically the approach to dietetics is “Like is good for like,” meaning eat tendon to repair tendon, consume liver to repair liver, etc.  Bone broth is seen as a Kidney Tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) because bones and marrow relate to the function and energetics of the kidneys.  The kidneys are also seen as the primary source for all yin and yang in the body and relate to our reproduction, sexual vitality, and the length of our lifespan.  Bone Broth is notoriously good for conditions of deficiency and debilitation.  Healthy kidneys lend to a long and healthy life.

  • Mineral content:  For bones to form and maintain their integrity, many minerals have to be present.  Thus, bone broth is very high in minerals, acting as a general tonic to the body and it’s plethora of functions.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon, & Pink Himalayan Salt:  These acidic components act as the agents that leach the minerals from the bones.  Without these present, it is far more difficult to extract said minerals, and it is therefore absolutely crucial they be present for a good, hearty, and healthy broth.  Pink Himalayan Salt is also very rich in trace minerals.

  • Black Peppercorns:  In both TCM and Ayurvedic Medicine, black pepper is said to aid in the absorption of minerals and in turn, support healthy digestion.  The black peppercorns cooking with the broth and then being blended with the broth, act as a “carrier” to further imbue the body with a higher level of mineral absorption.  They also make the broth taste warm and savory.

  • Raw Garlic:  Raw garlic is anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial, making it an excellent addition to an already tonic-laden broth.  Raw garlic boosts the immune system and is also excellent for the heart. It also helps lower cholesterol and arterial plaque, and in this case, acts a balancing agent to the fat present in bone broth.  Garlic is acrid, warm, and dispersing, where fat can be heavy, dense, and congealing.  The garlic being present makes the energetics and flavor of the broth “less heavy.”

  • 100% Organic Grass-Fed Bones:  Bones in this classification are rich in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats, compared to inflammatory Omega-6 fats which show up in conventional/commercial beef.  Cows that eat a grass-fed diet produce outer-muscular omega-3 fat, while corn-fed cows produce intramuscular omega-6 fat.  Grass is a cow’s natural diet; corn is an unnatural food for them and makes them collectively sick and riddles their body with intestinal and inflammatory disorders.

  • Marrow & connective tissues:  Marrow is rich in fat and thus makes a very long lasting and sustainable energy source in the body.  The connective tissue usually attached to beef bones is tendons, ligaments, and/or cartilage.  These substances are deeply rich in collagen, a connective and structural protein that yields gelatin when boiled.  Collagen is necessary for healthy skin, nails, hair, joints, and virtually every other connective tissue in the body.  As a result, bone broth was seen as a key medicine in ancient times to keep the skin looking youthful, pliable, and supple.  There is also considerable research now showing that bone broth is being used to heal Leaky Gut Syndrome because the collagen found in bone broth heals and supports the intestinal mucosa found in our digestive tract.  The collagen “fills” the micro-holes found in our small intestine from Leaky Gut, meaning the hyper-permeability of our intestinal lining is decreased, aiding in better absorption of nutrition in our diet.  Look for bones that have lots of connective tissue because it will yield more collagen in your bone broth.  You can also ask your local butcher to acquire you grass fed beef tendon to add to your crockpot in addition to the bones. 

  • Energetics:  According to TCM, minerals are said to have a descending action, and when ingested, make a person feel centered and rooted with their feet firmly planted on Earth.  Thus, bone broth yields this kind of effect to those who consume it.  Bones and marrow are the “deepest and most dense” parts of us and this is why it feels so nourishing and grounding to drink it.  Bone marrow is also where our bodies make blood and is pivotal in the function of our immune system.  Following the philosophy of “Like is good for like,” it is said that bone broth also supports these functions in our own bodies.  According to TCM and various other traditions, bone broth is a tried and true method to keep the body nourished, healthy, and whole.  

 


INGREDIENTS/APPARATUS’ NEEDED

 

2-3 LBS. OF 100% ORGANIC, GRASS-FED BEEF BONES

ORGANIC RAW APPLE CIDER VINEGAR

1 LEMON

HIMALAYAN SALT

2 – 5 CLOVES RAW GARLIC

BLACK PEPPERCORNS

CROCK POT

BLENDER (HIGH-QUALITY PREFFERABLE)

STRAINER/COLANDER

 

PROCESS

  • ADD 2-3 LBS. BEEF BONES TO CROCK POT

  • ADD 6 TABLESPOONS OF APPLE CIDER VINEGAR TO CROCK POT

  • ADD TWO TABLESPOONS BLACK PEPPERCORNS TO CROCK POT

  • SQUEEZE JUICE OF 1 LEMON INTO CROCK POT

  • ADD 1-2 TABLESPOONS OF PINK HIMALAYAN SALT TO CROCK POT

  • FILL CROCK POT TO VERY TOP WITH FILTERED WATER

  • SET CROCK POT TO LOW SETTING AND COVER WITH LID FOR 12-15 HOURS

  • AFTER 12-15 HOURS, REMOVE REMAINING MARROW/CONNECTIVE TISSUES FROM BONES AND PUT INTO BROTH; THEN REMOVE BONES FROM CROCK POT

  • STRAIN BONE BROTH THROUGH STRAINER/COLANDER AND PUT REMAINING MEAT/MARROW/CONNECTIVE TISSUES INTO BLENDER (MAKE SURE PEPPERCORNS GO INTO BLENDER)

  • FILL BLENDER A ¼ FULL WITH BONE BROTH AND ADD 2-5 CLOVES RAW GARLIC

  • BLEND ON MEDIUM SETTING UNTIL MEAT/MARROW/CONNECTIVE TISSUES BECOME LIQUEFIED AND A SINGLE CONSISTENCY

  • ADD THIS BLENDED/LIQUEFIED PORTION TO ORIGINAL BONE BROTH AND STIR UNTIL MIXED THOROUGHLY (REFRIGERATE AND CONSUME WITHIN 7-10 DAYS OR FREEZE)

  • DRINK BROTH & REVEL IN THE GLORY : )

 

  • PLEASE NOTE:  EVERY BATCH OF BONE BROTH IS UNIQUE AND I ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO FREELY AUGMENT THIS RECIPE TO THEIR LIKING.  THIS IS A FOUNDATION FROM WHICH TO GROW.  I OFTEN ADD MORE GARLIC OR SALT TO GET THE FLAVOR JUST WHERE I WANT IT.  EXPLORE AND FIND YOUR PERSONAL VARIATIONS : )


How to Make Golden Milk (Turmeric)

How to Make Golden Milk (Turmeric)

In the less than a minute, this video I made describes how to make Golden Milk, which is a turmeric infused beverage that is tremendously good for your health.  The ingredients used help extract the health giving properties of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, which is often very hard to digest if it is not prepared with fat, black pepper, and heat.  Enjoy...