Qigong to Empower Our Youth

Originally published, Acupuncture Today, March, 2014, Vol. 15, Issue 03

Qigong to Empower Our Youth

By Abbey Seiden, MSOM, LAc, CMT

“The more we witness our emotional reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain.” – Pema Chödrön

Qigong is an ancient form of exercise and meditation used to promote longevity and health. This practice has traditionally been used by adults to balance the body through mindfulness, focused breathing and gentle movements. We can teach these basic principles of Qigong to our youth, to enhance their confidence and self-esteem, reducing aggressive behavior and diminishing violence in our schools.

When teaching Qigong to adults, simple movements are quickly learned. As a result the mind calms, the body settles and the adult becomes more aware of his/her emotional state. These calming benefits are both immediate and longterm as regular Qigong exercise will have a cumulative beneficial effect.

These same basic exercises can be adapted for children easily and the result is an awakened and empowered emotional state. Through this awareness, the child becomes more confident and able to balance his/her own emotions when feeling triggered and agitated. Throughout the normal course of growth and development children face daily emotional challenges. It is through Qigong education a child is given a chance to chose, in moments of agitation, how they wish to respond. This is empowering for our youth and has provided a chance to diminish aggression and ultimately an alternative to violence and agression as a path of expression.

Qigong when taught to children serves several goals:

  • A mind calming exercise. Qigong movements allow a child to come to a slower, quieter place through the child’s own efforts. This promotes a sense of independence and fosters confidence.
  • Stress reduction. Simple mindfulness exercises such as rubbing one’s hands together until heat is felt, then placing those activated hands on the lower belly, helps settle an agitated child, creating an overall improved sense of well-being.
  • Redirect aggressive hostile energy and “acting out.” Qigong exercises are a method the child can return to over and over again – whenever they feel triggered or “out of control.” Initially this will require adult instruction and, guidance and through intervention. By encouraging a frustrated child to pause, come back to a sensation inside his/her own body, and only then attempt to express his/her emotions, the result will be clearer more effective communication. Eventually the child will have the capacity ability to turn to these centering exercises when they feel distressed without adult reminders.

It is important to encourage Qigong mindfulness exercises at an early age to give our children an opportunity to feel the strong emotions that are part of the natural maturing process, while offering a pathway to channel their emotions in a positive way. At a time when anti-bullying strategies are being emphasized in our schools, Qigong is a strategy that will guide children toward new pathways and coping skills to navigate their environment, reducing hostility and diminishing violence in our schools.

In “Qigong for Schoolchildren: A Pilot Study,” the feasibility of integrating Qigong in school lessons was highlighted. Improvements in social behavior and grades were recorded as inappropriate behavior decreased, compared to the control group.

In presenting the basic principles of Qigong to children, the practitioner must be willing to be creative and imagine him/herself as the age of the child being instructed.

Grounding exercises using visualization and imagery can be used in both adults and children to awaken Kidney 1 (Yongquan), “The Bubbling Spring.” For example for adults, “You are on a beautiful white sandy beach, on a warm clear day. The waves crash in and retreat as your feet sink deeper into the wet sand. You can feel the cool wet sand between each of your toes as the calmness you feel is drawn in with a gentle inhale. On the next exhale your feet sink deeper into the cozy safeness of the sand.”

This exercise can easily be reframed for children, “You are now a strong and brave super hero or princess. Imagine your special powers are in the sticky glue of your feet. Pretend your foot cannot lift off is suctioned to the ground. Imagine yourself walking up the castle walls with your sticky foot power to save the day!” Both the adult and the child have an opportunity to slow down and feel awareness near Kidney 1 (Yongquan), as the mind settles, rooting the spirit, and building a strong foundation of awareness.

Another exercise that is easily experienced by both adults and children is the activation of Qi in the palms of the hands through the awareness of sensation. “Rub your hands together until you feel heat. Now move your hands slowly apart and then you will feel buzzing.” Children find this exploration into body sensations, very funny and entertaining, as they can quickly “get it” and then bathe their own bodies with the “buzzing hands.”

Simple Qigong exercises can boost self-esteem, confidence and independence in our youth. Through this type of education, we will give our children the strategies necessary to promote lifelong self-awareness and vitality while reducing aggression and violence in our schools.

CLICK HERE to read more about Abbey in the Malibu Times

 

Optimizing Physical and Mental Health Through Free Flow

Originally published Acupuncture Today, 

August, 2011, Vol. 12, Issue 08

Optimizing Physical and Mental Health Through Free Flow

By Abbey Seiden, MSOM, LAc, CMT

 When the body is in free flow, with no blockage, there can be no imbalance, disharmony, or pain. It is only when the flow of qi, blood and fluids is compromised that a pattern of disharmony results. Thus, the goal for all acupuncture treatment is to restore the body to the natural state of homeostasis.

To illustrate this fundamental acupuncture treatment principle, let us discuss the nature of pain in the body.

If you are experiencing tightness in your neck, it may be due to an accumulation of stress in your shoulders and back. As your muscles get tighter, the free flow through that area of your body is being compromised. You may not be aware of the effects of this stress immediately. The holding pattern of your body and the manifestation in postural changes may not register as a problem until you wake up one day and you can no longer turn your head. Now the body has your attention, you are in pain. Acupuncture will open the areas of blockage, releasing the neck and restoring the flow through the acupuncture points and meridian channels and, as a result, your neck is pain is ameliorated.

When treating pain a variety of acupuncture points are utilized: local treatment to the affected area, trigger point release in the muscles, and acupuncture points distal to the affected area are chosen to reduce inflammation and increase circulation and healing. Often the muscles themselves need to be relaxed and, for this, a combination of acupuncture with additional modalities such as cupping, the application of cups to the skin to draw out deep inflammation, and massage are indicated. Achieving free flow through the acupuncture points is the treatment principle for all conditions. Determining where to place the acupuncture needles is the art of acupuncture combined with the experience of the acupuncturist.

When the body is open and balanced, there is no discomfort. This is manifested in the seemingly boundless energy of healthy children. As the body ages, we accumulate holding patterns of stress and fatigue, and it becomes necessary to remind the channels what free flow feels like. Originally designed to connect and circulate energy from the internal organs to the surface of the body and then back again, the meridian channels perform a very important job. Acupuncture treatment is designed to open the channels, resulting in being whole and complete again.

When viewing the body in this way, it is more difficult to understand how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help more complex internal symptoms, such as infertility, fatigue and depression. Fertility enhancement acupuncture often treats both female and male patterns. To help prepare the body for pregnancy, the acupuncturist guides qi, blood and fluids to the reproductive system increasing the likelihood of a successful pregnancy.

The result is better circulation, fresh new blood and surging qi through the reproductive organs. In addition, the acupuncture treatments are designed to reduce stress levels in the patient, to facilitate a deep sense of relaxation. As a result of this treatment, sleep, metabolism, and digestion often improve, a very welcome side effect of the acupuncture treatment.

In conditions affecting emotional health, Chinese medicine again teaches a simple principle, emotional balance is the ability to feel all emotions appropriately. Often when presented with heightened mental challenges, we get fixed in one emotional state. Often the patient suffering from fatigue and depression also feels unmotivated and lacking in self-esteem. It is by helping the emotions to move freely that the patient begins to feel less afraid and more motivated to take action.

A healthy emotional state can be observed in early childhood. A toddler will be happy one minute, screaming and frustrated the next, and then back to happy before the tears have time to dry. Unfortunately, as we age, our emotional responses become more and more predictable, rigid and neurotic. It becomes difficult to adjust our patterned responses and the free flow of emotions becomes blocked.

Fatigue is often a result of being set in one emotion. We yearn for change and freedom so we may feel better. Drug addition and drug dependency are often a result of a depressed view of oneself or one’s current situation. Acupuncture can help to treat these conditions by opening the channels and freeing the emotions so that they can return to a more centered and balanced state.

In conclusion, the acupuncturist’s main priority is to restore the natural free flow throughout the mind and body. Regardless of whether the patient needs stress and pain relief, support conceiving or holding a pregnancy, or emotional balancing, the guiding principle of acupuncture treatment remains the same; free flow promotes harmony and optimal health in the body.

 

 

 

 

Is Your Skin Aggravated?

The first step in the treatment of skin is to determine if a particular food is a trigger.  This is accomplished by keeping a food journal.

Simply keep track of all you eat and drink on one side of the journal and how your skin is doing on the other side.

After a few weeks of collecting data an “Elimination Diet” is recommended.    This means you eat primarily WHOLE foods and limit refined and processed foods.

After establishing a “clean” diet of whole grains, simply prepared protein (fish, chicken, beef) and steamed veggies (carrots, sweet potato, boy choy, string beans, etc.) void of spices and refined foods, then you can begin to add in the foods to be tested and record how your skin responds.

Everyone is different but it is often the below list of foods that are triggering to the skin:

  • Nuts, especially tree nuts (peanuts seem to be the worst.)
  • Shellfish.
  • Nightshade vegetables: Peppers, eggplant and especially cooked tomato.
  • Tropical fruits: Mango, papaya, kiwi, banana, avocado, and strawberries. (Better choice is watermelon, apples, pears, some berries, NOT strawberries.)
  • Fermented foods: Vinegar, miso, beer, wine.
  • And for some people sensitivity to eggs, dairy, wheat, corn, soy, etc

Other triggers:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Smoking
  • Drugs

Always use caution when experimenting with what you are consuming – wean yourself slowing.

 

Cooling Summertime Eats

The sun is strong and you are hot ~

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Stay cool and hydrated easily.

 You’ve heard it plenty, “Drink lots of fluids.” But did you know that certain herbal teas, such as chrysanthemum, mint & chamomile, have cooling properties? Mix up a batch and sip throughout the day to satisfy your thirst and provide some internal cooling action.

And summertime is famous for local farm stands. Pick up some seasonal fresh fruits known for their ability to help keep you hydrated. The number-one favorite is watermelon; it does a great job replenishing lost fluids and is deliciously satisfying. Cucumber is also a fantastic choice, especially for toddlers.

To feel lighter when the heat is oppressive, try eating smaller quantities of each meal, and choose foods that are easier to digest in hot summer months: soups, salads, fresh fruits and veggies.

I often get asked, “What does Chinese medicine think about fasting?” In general, fasting is not recommended because it depletes the body. But in other healing systems, fasting is an excellent opportunity to reach higher levels of awareness. If you choose to do any sort of fasting, these hot summer days will keep your body temperature healthy, to compensate for the lack of warmth normally provided by food. So now is the time.

Summertime Eats ~

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Sweet Spritzer: a quick refreshing beverage to satisfy that sweet tooth. Squeeze fresh lemon and lime into 1/4 cup pomegranate juice. Add seltzer and fresh mint. If you are experiencing leg cramping, substitute tonic water for seltzer and watch those leg cramps melt away.

Pressed Cucumber Salad: slice cucumbers paper thin, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup water, soak cucumbers in water for 30 minutes, then drain and dry slightly between paper towels, sprinkle with fresh dill and serve.

Jade Green Soup: saute 1/2 cup diced tofu; add 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add 2 cups leafy greens chopped. Add 3 cups vegetable broth and simmer until greens are brightly colored. Dissolve 1/2 tablespoon kuzu in 2 tablespoons water and add to soup. Simmer until it thickens. (Kuzu is a tuber from Japan that thickens soups and helps cool and soothe the stomach.)

 

Beat the Afternoon Slump

Do you feel sleepy at work?

man workingclockLady at work
Tips to increase concentration & productivity.

ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK:

Your goal: Beat fatigue, reduce tension headaches, and improve vision

Your move: A gentle workout for the eye muscles

Imagine your peepers are like the hands of a clock. When you read (something many people do all day long at work) you move your eyes from 9:00 to 3:00, back and forth, over and over. To relax those baby blues, try a gentle change of pace. Start by looking up to 12:00, gently hold for a few seconds while you breathe and relax. Then move to 1:00. At each position on your “eye clock” pause to relax and breathe deeply. When you have reached 12:00 again, repeat the exercise counterclockwise. Notice how clear your vision is and how that facial tension and headache just tick, tick, tick away!

SCHEDULE TIME TO RECHARGE:

Your goal: Maintain your energy all day long

Your move: Regular mental and physical breaks

Nobody’s a machine, so don’t force yourself to work like one. Try every hour to stand up and walk away from the computer. Every 2-3 hours, take a brisk walk for about 10-15 minutes. Walk around the office building, climb the stairs or even stash a jump rope in your office. These quick moves keep the blood flowing to your brain, and prevent that logy feeling.

MAXIMIZE YOUR MEALS:

Your goal: Get some air and save some money

Your move: Hit the road when it’s time to eat

Here’s a no-brainer: walk to pick up your food instead of driving or having it delivered. (If the weather is nice, sit outside and enjoy.) Or bring food from home and use your lunch break to walk in the fresh air. Every time you brown bag it, take $5 or $10 and stick it an envelope. It adds up! You’ll be able to use that money to go to your favorite restaurant on the weekend or buy a new outfit.

FOCUSED BREATHING:

Your goal: Perk up or calm down whenever you need it

Your move: An ancient deep-breathing exercise that really works

Alternating nostril breathing, called “harmonize the sun & moon,” increases oxygen to the brain, helps balance the emotions, and can ward off anxiety and depression. Just press your finger to one nostril while you inhale or exhale through the other. It goes like this: inhale right nostril (left is closed), exhale left nostril (right is closed), inhale left nostril (right is closed) exhale right nostril (left is closed). It only takes a few rounds to feel the difference- give it a try!

ACUPRESSURE:

Your goal: Increase concentration, reduce tension

Your move: Self massage – a quick way to perk up

There are many points on the surface of the body that have been shown to be effective to wake the mind and improve concentration. A set of 5 points surrounding the top of the head can be stimulated by lightly tapping the top of the head for one to three minutes. A point located on the fleshy part of the skin between the thumb and index finger can be stimulated by applying moderate pressure for one minute to reduce facial tension and relieve headaches.

 

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Beat the Butt: Your Stop-Smoking Plan

Pick the date you will begin your life as a non-smoker.  Be realistic about the timing of your date (the day before a big presentation at work, or an exam at school is probably not the most advantageous date). Be sure to have plenty of self nourishing and encouraging activities in place to insure your path of success.

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Here are a few suggestions:

  • Take all cigarette butts for two weeks prior to quitting and put in a jar with water. When the urge arises, open the jar and take a deep breath!
  • Never skip meals. Your body needs energy.
  • But be sure to snack smart: celery, carrot sticks, nuts, and seeds. Munchies keep your mouth busy,
  • Increase exercise to get the endorphins going.
  • Stay away from triggers – smoking hangouts and smoking-break buddies.
  • Get plenty of rest.  Set aside time for napping and relaxing. You’re allowed!
  • Take a QiGong/meditation/breathing class – for peace of mind, and to enjoy your lungs.
  • Collect all lighters, leftover packs of cigarettes, and ashtrays and toss ‘em.
  • Clean the home or car to celebrate your new beginning.
  • Commit to seeing supportive friends and relatives. Put them on your calendar.
  • Call yourself a non-smoker.
  • Enjoy yourself. Call on friends when you feel low. Go to the movies and try new activities. Again, put these on your calendar to force yourself not to “wimp out.”
  • Think positive: Focus not on what you’re giving up, but what you’re gaining.
  • Write it down! Write down “I want to be a lifelong non-smoker” or “I can change my behavior.” Say it enough times and you’ll start to believe it.
  • Keep a list of reasons why you want to be a non-smoker visible in your house, in the car or at work.
  • Avoid tempting situations (i.e. your favorite smoking chair.)
  • Join a support group or ask friends for additional support. Quitting is tough stuff; don’t go at it alone.
  • Use other stress relieving activities: a relaxing bath, music, reading, walking, massage, QiGong or acupuncture.

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Do you have any tips that have helped you along your path to becoming a nonsmoker?  Please post below.