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Acupuncture & Physical Performance

Professional athletes around the world are turning to Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine for performance enhancement, injury prevention, and injury recovery. Of course, you don’t have to be a professional to reap the benefits. Many of my patients are healthy active people who wish to stay that way, and Chinese Medicine is here to help.

This is not a new secret, as Martial artists have been using Chinese medicine for thousands of years to keep their bodies and minds in top competitive shape.

So, why is it that more professional athletes are choosing this ancient medicine? Many studies have been performed on acupuncture in the past decades, and it is proven to be an effective form of medicine, not just another form of quackery.  It is an all-natural approach, with no side effects, and a healthy performance enhancer.

Whether you are a professional athlete or an active enthusiast, your performance and your health can benefit from acupuncture in many ways.

  1. Increased recovery time after workouts.
    Acupuncture increases the flow of blood and nutrients to tired fascia and muscles, can effectively and quickly increases recovery times, and can reduce muscle pain and soreness. Tour De France champion Vincenzo Nibali was treated with acupuncture daily during the arduous 3 week race. He attributes his success to the acupuncture providing his body with the ability to recover quickly on a daily basis.
  2. Active muscle balancing
    Practice makes perfect.” While this saying is true, repetitive use and strengthening of the primary muscles cause weakness in the opposing muscles. Because our bodies are always trying to stay in balance, the weak muscles tighten and the fascia shortens in an attempt to keep the body in balance. This imbalance causes a lot of strain on the joints and skeletal attachments of the muscles. A skilled acupuncturist can identify muscles that are tight due to weakness, and muscles that are tight due to overuse and restore balance to the body. In every movement of our body, there are several muscles that work together to achieve the same goal. Within these synergistic groups, there is a primary muscle responsible for the movement. It is not uncommon for these primary muscles to get overworked and fatigued. When this happens, they stop firing properly. Acupuncture can reactivate the primary movers and keep your body functioning at peak performance.
  1. Injury prevention
    Every sport and athletic endeavor pushes the human body to its limits, increasing the chance for injury. The most common injuries suffered by athletes are over-use injuries. These types of injuries don’t happen overnight, but occur slowly over time. Many athletes are unaware that the injury is occurring until it gets severe enough to cause pain and visible damage. Many of the injuries involve the connective tissues of our bodies. These tissues include tendons, ligaments, and vertebral disks. These connective tissues, also called fascia, have less blood and fluid supply than other tissues such as muscle and bone. Acupuncture can effectively open the microvacules, the functional unit of connective tissuei, and promote healing and reduction of inflammation.
  2. Immune support
    Any athlete knows that there is nothing worse than having to take a break in training due to a pesky cold. Training and playing hard uses a lot of the body’s resources that would otherwise be used to fight off seasonal germs that cause the cold and flu. Many athletes train rain or shine, and being exposed to adverse weather conditions can further compromise the bodies immune system. Getting regular acupuncture has been proven to improve immunity to seasonal bugs, and keep athletes training and playing strong all year round.
  3. Increased performance during workouts and competitions
    Acupuncture can help muscles to fire properly by increasing proper blood flow to the muscles, and activating the muscles motor points. Pre-performance needling has been used on athletes for thousands of years. By activating muscles with a quick treatment, the neuromuscular junction is primed, and the body’s nervous system is focused on the muscles that need to be performing at peak levels. It is not uncommon for athletes to use auricular tacks throughout their performance. The tacks are strategically placed on the ears of the athletes to increase neuro-muscular function during competition. Alan Houston of the New York Knicks sparked plenty of skepticism when he announced he was using acupuncture to recover from an ankle injury. Not only did he heal well, but also he started playing better. He made acupuncture a regular part of his training regiment.
  4. Quickly return to training post injury / post surgery
    Professional athlete or not, an injury or surgery can put quite a damper on activity levels. Those who seek out acupuncture after an injury will not only heal faster but heal more effectively and have reduced chances of re-injury, and less of a chance of incurring a new injury due to overcompensation. As described so many times in this article, acupuncture increases blood and fluids to the body’s tissues. This brings the necessary nutrients that tissues need to heal. It also helps clean out old and dead tissues that can get in the way of healing. Scar tissue is an often-overlooked culprit of delayed healing and post surgical pain. Scar tissue is less juicy and flexible that the original tissue that it is repairing. It often lays its fibers in a haphazard fashion, which can interrupt the smooth flow of function. The good news about scar tissue, is that is continuously re-lays itself. Acupuncture has been shown to influence scar tissue to lay in an organized pattern, which reduces pain and improves healing. Ray Emery of the Chicago Blackhawks used acupuncture to help him recover successfully after hip surgery in 2010.
  5. Stress relief and improved sleep
    Balancing a training regiment with the many other factors of life can be stressful. There is often very little time for rest, and a stressed out, tired athlete will not perform at his/her best. Of all the studies performed on acupuncture, it has been proven over and over again that it is extremely effective in reducing stress and improving quality of sleep. It is beneficial to all athletes to find the time in their schedules for a weekly acupuncture treatment to manage stress, and improve quality of sleep.

Healthy athletes are successful athletes. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine provide a way for athletes to improve their health, improve their performance, and remain injury free.

C. Guimberteau, “The Sliding Mechanics of the Subcutaneous Structures in Man Illustration of a Functional Unit: The Microvacuoles,” Studies of the Académie Nationale de Chuirurgie (2005).

~ Timoni Slusher LAc

Why Gua Sha?

gua-sha-TCM-acupuncture-sedona-day-spa-namtiWHAT: In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the word “Gua” means to scrape and “Sha” has three meanings.

1.”Sha” from a TCM point of view, refers to the blood stasis or stagnant blood and qi that blocks the meridian pathway that can affect proper flow of energy and blood.

2. From the western medicine point of view, it refers to the fluids that contain metabolic waste that has accumulated in the tissues and muscles.

3. “Sha” can also be described a series of reddish, minute hemorrhages that look like a red colored speckled rash. This is called petechia than can surface to the skin after a Gua Sha treatment.

WHY: In TCM, blood stagnation is considered to cause many diseases. The Gua Sha scraping technique can release the body of blood stagnation. By letting your body get rid of this old stagnant blood, new and healthier blood cells can be created. Once your body releases excess waste, it can then allow your new cells to efficiently absorb more nutrients.

When Gua Sha is used in a massage, it quickly releases blockages in your body that has been caused by stagnant blood. It actually mimics sweating and promotes circulation of your body fluids. By doing so, it helps to normalize cellular metabolic processes and release toxic waste from your deep cellular tissues. As your blood and qi circulation increases, it helps to oxidize your cells as well as to nourish them.

In Chinese and Western studies Gua Sha has been found to alleviate or prevent headaches & migraines, common cold, flu, fever, bronchitis, asthma, as well as any other chronic disorders that involve the congestion of blood and qi. Additionally Gua Sha been show effective for treating heat / sun stroke, insomnia and memory loss, depression, PMS, impotence, blood pressure issues, hormonal imbalances, anxiety, skin disorders, as well as joint stiffness and daily aches & pains. As an added bonus, many clients comment they look five years younger after facial Gua Sha!

How: Gua Sha is performed during a massage so each area is first massaged with oil. A chosen area of the skin is then stroked in a downward motion at a 30 degree angle, using a smooth edged tool. This tool is traditionally made from water buffalo horn or jade. At NAMTI Spa our massage therapists use jade tools, which are sanitized thoroughly after each use.

The continued scraping may create petechiae / sha / reddish spots, streaks or bruises. If these do occur it is a sign of detoxification and the sha usually fades within 2 to 4 days. With repeated Gua Sha treatments, the sha will start to fade faster which will be a good sign since it’s an indication of better blood circulation.

After a Gua Sha session it’s recommended to take it easy the rest of the day, perhaps taking an epsom salts bath and also drinking lots and lots of water, as the body’s lymphatic system & detoxifying have been activated. This will help your body eliminate toxins released during the treatment.

Gua Sha is one of the safest, easiest and most natural ways to release build up of toxins in your body and allow nutrients in for a stronger and healthier physical, emotional and energetic body! You can purchase a Gua Sha tool after your session at NAMTI and continue the benefits at home!

Food As Medicine – from an Ayurvedic Perspective

Throughout time, and in the more recent past, there have been many approaches to how, what, when and where to eat the best food to nurture ourselves with. Profound leaps of understanding nutrition have been achieved through research, our healthcare and educational system, and the expanse of media. In spite of it all, our ancient ancestors have known all along how to take care of themselves.

Is it a blessing or a digression that we have so much knowledge today in this modern era? Is it our ego, fear or faith that we base our decisions of food, medicine, beauty and “appropriate” living habits on? Ultimately, taking conscious responsibility for your body and emotional state rewards us balance and harmony in your life. As is the individual, so is the universe. Let’s take a moment to get a better understanding of the world around us, from an Ayurvedic perspective.

Ayurveda originated in India more than 5000 years ago. The sages of ancient India created this holistic method of healing imbalances in the body, mind and spirit based on “Vedic” texts, possibly the world’s oldest record of spiritual and medical knowledge. Ayurveda is considered the “mother of all healing” and is said to originate from Prana, the life force itself, which is the original power of creation. This timeless system for living and being able to access the inner pharmacy is revered in India and more recently, throughout the world.

Sanskrit for the “science” or “wisdom of life”, Ayurveda is an ancient philosophy based on a deep understanding of the eternal truths about the mind, body and spirit. Unlike western medicine, an Ayurvedic lifestyle is based on permanent, wise, and eternal principles of living. According to the timeless healing traditions of Ayurveda, the field of pure consciousness expresses itself through the five elements of nature. These five codes of intelligence – space, air, fire, water and earth – exist everywhere and are the building blocks of nature’s diverse expressions. The meaning of Ayurveda then, is truly embracing the teachings that are the wisdom of life and therefore can offer a life of balance and beauty.

Exploring the field of consciousness and expression within us is the basis of healing. Through changes in our perceptions and interpretations we can improve our health and well-being. A consciousness-based approach to health views symptoms as a sign for us to pay attention to the choices we are making in our lives.

The root belief of Ayurveda is that each human being is unique, having a distinct individual constitution, genetic inheritance and predisposition to certain tendencies, and that the body and mind should never be treated in isolation from one another.

In Ayurveda, FOOD IS MEDICINE. Nutrition (or anything for that matter) is energy and information where nothing is generalized. You are an individual. Your food and lifestyle choices will help you access your inner pharmacy and ultimately lead to a dis-ease free, worry free, healthy and long life.

We are currently in the midst of a turbulent time on this planet. I invite you to be nice to yourself. Love yourself. It costs your body an enormous amount of energy to digest one meal, tapping into your reserves of vital life force. Taking into account what you need and what the qualities of the season offer, you can greatly increase your energy levels or ability to deal with life in a balanced way.

It is natural during the fall and winter season to desire more sweet foods for energy, more proteins to nurture your body, more restful experiences to regenerate your body and more oils to increase brain function A good source during our winter months is avocado. . Avocados consist of 25% fruit oil, the highest in any fruit. They are sweet, warm and heavy. Originally they provided nutrition during the tropic winters. Here in the not so tropic environments, they still remain one of the best fruits to eat in the winter. Research has found that there are three compounds in avocados that kill cancer cells. They are also high in copper and iron. 7.1 grams of protein; 55.8 grams of good fat; and 21.4 grams of good carbs.

Herb-ally speaking, a great supplement this time of year and for all types is Ashwaganda. AKA Winter Cherry, Ashwaganda is a primary “rasayana” for masculine energy, offers profound immune protection, neutralizes stress, may inhibit cancer cell growth, improves learning and memory, reduces anxiety and depression and can stabilize blood sugar. The “rasa”-taste- is bitter and sweet and the “virya”-function- is mildly heating. In Ayurvedic terms, Ashwaganda decreases Vata and Kapha.

Wrapping the subject of food as medicine up for now, you can experience a sense of peace, vitality, beauty and rejuvenation with nurturing treatments and an Ayurvedic diet. Blessings on your journey.

Lorrie has over twenty years experience in the field of health, wellness and integrative medicine modalities. Ayurvedic Practitioner, Licensed Massage Therapist and Chopra Center Educator and continued education provider.

Love And Abundance

“When God sends rain, it falls on everyone the same.”

In a reference from Deepak Chopra’s recent book “Jesus”; it is a great time for all people, and we will never know this unless we step forward with an open heart.

A dedication in David Simon’s book “The Ten Commitment’s” reads; “to my fellow seekers who have tolerance as their practice, nature as their house of worship and a God that answers to all or none”. For me, that statement sums up Love, Life, Illusion and God Consciousness. Contemplating this, recognizing the precarious nature of our economic condition and the inherent human need to feel loved, I am focusing this message as a meditation for 2009. I commit to love and abundance.

Osho said, “Love this moment as totally as possible and suddenly you will come to realize that if you live it totally; it is solved. There is no need to “solve” life. Life is not a “problem” to be solved; it is a mystery to be lived.” If you want to love a person, love them here, now. Show them you love them because nobody knows what is going to happen in the next moment.

Ultimately, I had to leave the mentality called “fear of lack of abundance” behind. Vedic students have learned in that the material world is the domain of the body and all physical things. As this is so, humanity becomes a servant to daily desires and battles with the ego. Living in this reality, or Illusion, we begin to worship a false God, which is symbolized today as money, possessions and power.

Knowing God and living in spirit, is knowing Love. Here the material world has no more meaning. Have you ever been in such a state of bliss that you could have “lived on love”? This is also an unrealistic illusion. God is the source from which reality is born. Your desires, the possibility of God and The spirit of God are within you at this very moment. How do we Transcend these limitations in our world and in our mind, how do we transcend these limitations in our heart?

“Doing good deeds and going beyond selfishness. Praying for a solution surrenders it to God. A monk’s life sacrifices all material concerns going beyond gratification and ego. We must go beyond our five senses and the mind. The West prefers contemplation of God’s divine nature while the East, influenced by India’s spiritual traditions prefers meditation.” Both of those practices calm the mind and allow for possibilities. “If you were already in unity with God, sitting still with your own being would be totally fulfilling.” You would experience perfect abundance and love.

Buddha’s definition of illusion is absolute. Whatever can be seen touched or heard is unreal. Whatever the mind can think of is unreal. This concept can be confusing. With a shift in consciousness, REALITY is pure and will reveal itself. So now is the time to stop suffering and start living and loving. Through the eyes of Buddha, The root of suffering is also illusion, and the only way out of illusion is to stop believing in the separate self and the world that supports the separate self.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna; when one fully withdraws the mind from selfish cravings, one is in yoga, union with the Divine. When the mind becomes still and quiet, the Self reveals itself. At these depths one experiences the joy and peace of complete fulfillment. The goal and reaching the goal become one and the same. Life becomes a meditation. Indeed, to achieve this state will surely bring an end to all your sorrow.

If some of us are suffering, then all of us are suffering. If some of us are loving and being loved, then all of us are loving and being loved. When we understand that we are truly connected (I am that, you are that, all this is that, and that is all there is) and becoming each other, we are no longer the separate self, and become God, love.

The Song of Songs reveals; “Behold thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast dove’s eyes. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb; honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments like the smell of my home. Love is as strong as death. Make haste, my beloved”.

I commit to love. “All I know is love and I find my heart is Infinite and Everywhere!”-Hafiz

I commit to abundance. “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, you owe me. Look what happens with a love like that, it lights up the whole sky”.-Hafiz

You see love, abundance and God are all the same.

Commit to being generous with your affection, attention, appreciation and acceptance and you will see the same returned to you in kind. These expressions of human love will help fulfill your deepest needs.

The body, mind and soul exist together as one unit, as all things exist together in the universe.-Caraka Samhita Sutrasthana. Taking care of yourself, taking care of your love and manifesting your abundance with God Consciousness will take care of us all. Focus your energy one honoring the temple of your soul, the body, and spend time with your spirit and nurturing the spirit of others.

For this year and for the rest of my life, I commit to Love and Abundance.

Lorrie Lawrence is a certified Ayurvedic practitioner available for consultations, Ayurvedic treatments, cleanse programs, nutrition consultation, continued education and ongoing workshops in Sedona and California.

Wellness Into The New Year

For human beings, eating was never a simple matter. For animals in nature, food is fuel. In our new consciousness, we understand that food is energy and information. To a human, the ritual of eating is one of the most primal of shared activities. We eat together when we celebrate, and we eat together when we grieve; we eat together to send someone on their way and we eat together when a loved one returns. Sometimes we solve our family problems, or conduct business and even entertain. Human nature has had plenty of time to develop patterns and rituals around the sacred act of eating.

In her book, “The Healing Secrets of Food”, Deborah Kesten explores deeper, “what does it mean to unite with others through food”? Simply put, it means putting interaction with others back into your dining experience. In this regard, the healing secret of socializing begins with being aware that our current food perspectives are imbalanced and incomplete. The sole function of food is not just to provide fuel for the body to work, and eating isn’t another mindless, functional chore to follow mealtimes. Eating is a health enhancing, empowering, unifying creative adventure when you share food and camaraderie as you dine”.

A little story: Once upon a time, my son and I went to the local theatre to watch “Where the Wild Things are”. About halfway into the movie, I sensed myself getting uncomfortable. Why? I got it: This boy hasn’t eaten in at least two days! Even the very large wild things had not had a bite. We realize that the main tenet of this film is a world through the mind of a child. Children live in the present moment and are far too busy playing to be bothered by the trivialities of eating! They eat when they finally remember they are hungry, or when they are reminded, at which point eating becomes (hopefully) a social event and they sit down at the table with the family. For Max in the book and movie, reality begins again when “after a brief boat trip he runs back home, and his mother greets him with open arms, and feeds him”

The new year is here. What does that mean for most of us? For some of us it means “Dash Board Dining”, another phrase coined in Ms. Kersten’s book. As we rush to prepare for the awesome moment when we get to share, feast and give love, we forget to be present in the moment. We forget to be present in the journey getting there. The Buddha says; “when you walk, just walk. When you breathe, just breathe. When you eat, just eat”. Forgive me for adding some of my own wisdom to that. In the Ayurvedic tradition we understand that “yoga” means “union”. Most of the Yogis I know love to eat really good food made with attention and intention. There are only a few things I can think of that are more bliss-filled than taking some time to cook and eat with each other. After all, it says somewhere in the Vedanta, “never pass up a moment to experience bliss”. An American Indian tradition says “always accept a glass of water offered”. Here are a few tips to assist you in staying present on your healthy journey:

Take time to breathe. Practice my favorite technique to stay present, Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing):

  1. In a sitting position, use your right hand to control the flow of breath through your nostrils.
  2. Position your thumb over the right nostril, while your third and fourth fingers are over the left.
  3. Inhale deeply, and then close off the right nostril with your thumb, exhaling through the left.
  4. Staying in position, slowly inhale through the left nostril and at the peak of your inhale, close off your
  5. left nostril with the third and fourth fingers, exhaling through the right nostril.
  6. After full exhalation, inhale again through the right nostril, closing it off with your thumb.
  7. Follow this pattern; inhaling through the left nostril, exhaling through the right, inhaling through the
  8. right nostril and then exhaling through the left.

As a beginner, try a round of five with the pattern beginning on the right and then repeat the round on the left.

Pranayama exercises reduce mental turbulence and are significantly helpful to prepare for meditation or even a family dinner!

Meditate.  Meditation allows us to access our true potential and become aware of our silent witness.

Cook healthy food. Cooking good healthy food takes time, planning and preparation. In my practice, teaching Food as Medicine, I often hear how difficult that is to do with a busy schedule. My best advice is to commit to some healthy planning. Eating well is not rocket science, and it exceeds the expectations of modern day medical science. Start by taking the time to love yourself through the good food, the complete energy and information, that you give it and your loved ones. As we find ourselves in a changing season, and we begin to experience the qualities of Vata and Kapha in our bodies, minds and the nature around us, start planning and cooking a Kapha-balancing balancing menu.

Share your fabulous creation with someone you love and experience bliss. During this new season, let’s all practice the gift of union, actually experiencing the journey in getting there (where ever that may be) and be present in the moment.

Blessings on your journey, Namaste.

Lorrie Lawrence