Year of the Water Dragon

By Rhiannon Griffiths

Happy New Year! No, I’m not on a time lapse, or having some kind of deja vu, it is the start of the Chinese New Year today! As you may already know, the Chinese calendar attributes different animals to different years, and depending on the year you were born, you are a different animal – I am a Dog! If you don’t know what animal you are, you can check it out here!

This year (2012) is the year of the Dragon in China, or more specifically, the Water Dragon. So, as we say goodbye to the year of the Rabbit, and enter into one of the most revered years in the Chinese Zodiac, let’s see what goodies it has in store for us, and how we can make the most of it…

The Dragon has supernatural powers and is a deliverer of good fortune and intense power; according to the Sung dynasty, he has a head of an ox, body of a serpent covered with fish scales, and feet of a phoenix. He gives happiness and success, watches over good, honest people and the family, cultivating smart and healthy children. Which I guess makes it a very good year for me to be doing a paediatric acupuncture diploma! If you have children, ensure holistic health (body, mind and emotions) features big this year; and if you don’t  have children, but are intending to start a family, this year is the one for you!

It is a time for boldness, big ideas and new projects on a work and social level, as the Yang part of Water of this “Water Dragon” year, is more like an ocean or a rushing stream, opposed to a stagnant pond. It is powerful, dynamic and has strong energy. So think outside the box, push the boundaries of your comfort zone, and try something new – this year, nothing is off the table, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to – after all, you have the power of Water behind you, pushing you forward!

It brings all the qualities we know and love about the Water Element in Chinese medicine – bringing wisdom and perception, re-evaluting situations, researching when necessary, assessing levels of risk – making plans even more successful, as the pitfalls have already been thought of and accommodated for. So if you’re embarking on a new project this year, ensure you do all the research, and it’s likely to be a success. Or why not use your wisdom and passion inspire others – organise a talk or seminar, invite the girls round to talk about your favourite books, make a video on what you know about and post it on you tube! Spread the word and lead the way, as the Dragon would!

The parts of the body Water relates to include the kidney, immune system, sexual organs and the urinary system; so ensure you keep an eye out for kidney problems, kidney stones, inflammation of urinary tract, and general virus or bacterial infection. Drink enough water to keep your body hydrated, to reduce vulnerability to these issues; and acupuncture can help keep your immune system topped up.

The Dragon is said to be a karmic animal, bringing the positive, loving energies we have given to others, back to us! (You have been giving out positive, loving energies, right?! If not, make this something you do this year – give big and you’ll get tons back). This year is set to have love and success at the top of its agenda, and who wouldn’t want that?! New love can blossom, and as the Dragon is associated with festivals and celebrations, 2012 is THE year for engagements and weddings! And its not just small successes, Dragons bring those BIG dreams to life!

So take the opportunity to start with your new year’s resolutions all over again, grab hold of the Dragon’s optimism and positivity, get rid of those January blues, and embrace a new start, for a second time!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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Resolutions Reminder

By Rhiannon Griffiths

Hello 2012! We are now entering the age of love, which means this new year is going to be a super positive one, with tons of great changes – I for one, am soooo excited to see what it has in store for me, and also to hearing all about what it has in store for you – here, online, and of course in the clinic.

For those of you who already follow my Facebook and Twitter pages, you probably already know that my only “resolution” for the new year was to start yoga again, after something like 8 years away from the practice! But I chose to start this just after Christmas – it helps that Santa left me some goodies under the tree to get me going!

Starting early, takes some of the “pressure” off starting today, the 1st January 2012, and all the connotations that come with that – the fact that many people spend the first day of the new year feeling hideously hungover (not me – though don’t get me wrong, in the past I have had my fair share of hungover, negative, depressed New Year Days), just adds to that pressure of “oh no, I haven’t started my resolution”, or “gosh, I need a detox”, or “damn, I’ve broken my resolution in less than 24 hours!”… We do not need to put that much pressure on ourselves! Resolutions are supposed to be empowering – looking at what good stuff we want for ourselves in the year ahead… again, the focus is on what WE want for OURSELVES, not what we feel we SHOULD be doing, or going into competition with our friends, work colleagues or neighbours (meeting them on the doorstep as we get up for the gruelling 5am  run before work – YUCK!)…

I know what I want my general life to look like, in all its best holistic balanced glory… I want to ensure that I do at least one of the following each and every day – meditation, qigong or yoga. Of course, more than one each day would be preferable (and wonderful!), but I am realistic – if I am treating in clinic until 8pm, as I tend to for the first part of the week, I am not going to be doing yoga, then qigong and meditating before bed… As you think about your resolutions for 2012, don’t set yourself up for a fall, take small steps, and feel good about what you DO manage, don’t focus on the negative and beat yourself up – we are all human, even acupuncturists!

And sometimes we need a little support in keeping on track, I know I do – so you have my permission to ask me, when I see you in clinic, as to how my yoga is getting along! And acupuncture can help keep you on track, as you move into the new year with wishes for a healthier, more holistic focus – whether that be stopping smoking, losing weight, reducing stress levels and feeling more positive about life, or just having a better level of health with a boosted immune system.

Click here to read an article published in “Go Local” magazine this time last year, in January 2011 (scroll halfway down the page and click on the picture for pdf), which explains exactly HOW acupuncture works to help YOU to keep on track with your resolutions this year, and make this your healthiest and best year yet!

Let me know what your healthy, holistic resolutions are this year, and/or how I can help you keep on track with them for this magnificent New Year! Sending goodness to you all!

 

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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Open or Shut the Gates?

By Rhiannon Griffiths

So the pre-Christmas build up and the day itself has been and gone, but we’re still gearing up for the New Year celebrations – for my family there are birthdays too! Everyone in the world wants to meet for a “Christmas drink” – we don’t see these people for most of the year, but somehow as soon as December hits, everyone wants to meet, your diary is chocka-block and you don’t even have a window in which to pick up the Turkey!

Now this isn’t a bad thing in itself, the invitations are offered in the jolliest of spirits, everyone is full of Christmas cheer, overtaken by the excitement of the festivities and the warmth of being with people you love… but the emphasis must be on exactly that, being with people you love. At this time of year, many of us struggle with saying no to acquaintances and well-meaning neighbours, so that our social calendars over the holidays are stretched to bursting point and we don’t have time to do the things we really want to do, or the things that are going to nourish us the most.

This kind of joy, the bubbly, jolly socialising, reaching out to others to make connections and relationships is all associated with the Fire Element in Chinese Medicine. It is to do with the Heart organ (with the Small Intestine), and the Pericardium (Heart Protector) with the Triple Burner (temperature regulator in Chinese Medicine). All the associations we recognise to be aligned with the Heart, are synonymous with the Fire Element – love, happiness, people, parties, laughter, warmth and closeness with others. However, conversely, the opposite is also true, at the other end of the spectrum, i.e. a lack of joy, not wanting to socialise, hating parties, feeling miserable and flat – the key is to keep the Fire Element in a state of balance, so the emotions don’t fluctuate massively from being incredibly up, to plummeting down into the depths. This is the case for all of us, as we all have all five of the Elements within us, but it is particularly important for Fire CFs (those people who have Fire as their Element or Constitutional Factor, which is like their energetic default setting)…

This was particularly evident in the last couple of weeks before Christmas, as in clinic, I noticed I was treating nearly all of my Fire Element (or Fire CF) patients with what we call the luo-junction points, Pc 6 and TB 5 – my quota totally sky rocketed as we got nearer and nearer to Christmas!

These points, called Pc 6 (Pericardium 6, Nei Guan, Inner Gate) and TB 5 (Triple Burner 5, Wai Guan, Outer Gate), can provide us with a valuable lesson during the festive period, as it is about maintaining a healthy balance between reaching out and opening our hearts to others, or retreating inwards and “closing the gate” to people around us.

I have used this point combination a lot during December, to allow patients’ spirits to feel more balanced, to get emotionally prepared or “fired-up” for the upcoming onslaught of celebrations, and to feel like they are actually allowed to say no to some social engagements if they so wish – however hard it feels! The Inner Gate (Pc 6) reaches the inner aspect of the person, regulating the opening and closing of the gates of the Pericardium, which protects the Heart. When this inner part feels weary, fearful or overwhelmed by social engagements, the point can stimulate the Heart Protector’s compassion, connection and warmth, allowing us to go “out” whilst still feeling protected.

The Outer Gate (TB 5) has the function of actively discerning who may enter and leave through our gates. It regulates our external boundary, helping us to reach out (physically and emotionally – hence its location on the arm, towards the wrist) to make contact with positive people… when it is not functioning correctly, we may reach out to too much (showing too much of ourselves to others), to too many people, or the wrong people, creating a negative affect.

So remember, think carefully about your own inner and outer gates as you gear up for the New Year parties – are you seeing the people you really want to see? Are you reaching out and making connections with loved ones who are important to you? Or have you succumbed to “accidentally accepting” an invitation that came in whilst your inner gate was too open? Were you unable to protect your heart when someone asked you to celebrate with them? Do you need to do something quieter at home, instead of a drunken night on the town?

Choose to welcome in 2012 with something that will nurture yourself – you can open the gate, or close the gate, whatever suits your own energy, just listen to your intuition as this will be very different for different people. Wishing you all very happy New Year celebrations, whatever they may look like!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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All of the Sweetness, None of the Sugar

By Rhiannon Griffiths

So I seem to have overdosed on Christmas movies in the last couple of weeks! (Hence the gap in writing the blog – the intention was there, but the Christmassy procrastination / hibernation reigned supreme!).

Having found that “Movies 24” changes to “Christmas 24” from the 1st December, there is a veritable feast of cheesy, sickly sweet, American straight-to-TV Christmas films that start every hour on the hour – a one-stop-shop for festive merriment of baking and icing gingerbread men, threading popcorn for the tree, singing carols around the piano (how come everyone can always sing in tune, and there is always someone who plays beautifully?!)…

That heart-warming, fuzzy, contented feeling that comes after seeing the happy ending, where the couple finally get together underneath mistletoe, or the family are reunited (after facing potential misery) beside the giant sparkly Christmas tree covered in snow, as happy shiny people in brightly coloured scarves, hats and ear muffs skate behind them in the background shot – it not only boosts our Fire Elements (the Heart, and emotions of jolly joy and warmth, about happy socialising and people), but the stories feed the Earth Element, nourishing the Spleen (Earth organ).

The Earth Element is all about nourishing, mothering, home-making, feeling centered and grounded, bringing family and communities together, with sympathy, understanding and looking after each other in the sweetest, most supportive way. The virtues of Earth are about care of others, putting others before yourself, a love of family, food, and the home (we won’t dwell on the vices of Earth in this post – that’s just not festive!!). The over-the-top niceness and sweetness that comes in these movies portrays this Element perfectly – so much so that my Wood CF sister cannot sit through them without getting impatient… I however, adore them – the cheesier the music, the more predictable, more magical, more sticky-sickly-sweet the better!! It really does satisfy my Spleen’s craving for sugary loveliness. The Spleen loves sugar, and when imbalanced (to any degree, slightly or hugely), causes us to crave (and eat!) more sugary things like cake and biscuits…

It is also no surprise that these types of films can be called “cheesy” as the Spleen also loves cheese and dairy – though, as described previously, depending on your constitution, cheese may not love your Spleen! It can cause phlegm to build up in the body, creating symptoms like a blocked nose, increased snoring, catarrh in the throat, heavy limbs, or a muzzy head – I treat this in the clinic a lot, especially after all the consumption of Christmas Cheese boards! Cheese hates me, but I can get my fix of sticky, milky, satisfying cheesiness from these films, without compromising my health! And an unblocked nose is always a bonus at Christmas!!

Supporting the Earth Elements (Stomach and Spleen) can reduce cravings of sugar or dairy, and acupuncture certainly does this by boosting the function of these organs. But you can support your own Spleen at home, at this time of the year, by nourishing it in a more abstract way – not with actual food, but with “food” for the spirit of the Element. So if you go to reach for another mince pie, or a Christmas Tree shaped cookie, why not stick a Christmas movie on instead, and get all of that delicious sweetness, but none of the actual sugar! Holistic health in the holidays! Enjoy!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011

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Chinese Food Energetics

By Rhiannon Griffiths

Chinese Food Energetics is another way of looking at food and nutrition, and formulating an eating plan or diet that is most suited to us. Just as acupuncture itself is tailored specifically for that one individual patient – and no two patients are exactly the same, no matter how similar they appear to be – Chinese Food Energetics creates guidelines or dietary advice to suit that one specific individial patient too.

For example, some patients can eat dairy literally until the cows come home (pun absolutely, utterly intended!), and another person (like me!) only has to look at a piece of cheese and the nose, sinuses and throat start to fill with mucus or phlegm. This is because dairy is a “damp-forming” food, and some patients are more susceptible to the formation of damp, due to the deficiencies or imbalances that are present in their system.

The “energetics” of food is different to the energetic calories present in food, it is not about the amount of energy available in a nutritional or chemical sense – it is about the affect the food has on the energy or Qi in our bodies. Food is described in Chinese Medicine as having certain qualities – temperatures (hot, warm, neutral, cool or cold), flavours that link in with the Five Elements (salty, sour, bitter, sweet or pungent), routes into the body (the organs it affects most), and actions (moves Qi, resolves phlegm, nourishes blood etc).

When we speak about the temperature of a food, it is not the temperature of it in the mouth i.e boiling hot soup vs freezing cold ice cream, it is the “energetic temperature”, the affect it will have on the body once it has been digested. For example, apples are energetically cool, and pears are energetically cold – so pears are energetically colder than apples, despite them feeling the same temperature to touch on the skin when you hold them in your hands. Furthermore, a red apple is energetically warmer than a green apple! Again they both feel exactly the same to touch on the outside skin, but energetically the temperature is slightly different… but as they are both apples, they are still both warmer than the cold pear – you still with me?! Let’s do a little more explaining…

Energetically hot foods warm us up internally, so a slice of ginger root even if eaten raw, cooked or not cooked, at room temperature or straight from the fridge, will always bring heat into the body when digested. Another example is courgette, which is cool in temperature (foods that contain a lot of water content are often cooler in energetic makeup), will always cool the body internally whether you eat it raw and shredded in a salad during Summer, or cooked in the Winter as part of a stew or ratatouille. We can go further in that the raw one would be more cooling than the one that is cooked, as there is some influence on the energetic temperature of food by the method of cooking, but the cooked one would still be cooling energetics wise. So as to not confuse things too much, more exploration of that can be saved for another post!

And on the actual physical temperature of food, please never eat things straight out of the fridge! Energetically cold food, eaten physically cold, is a double whammy of cold – the digestive system struggles with this. The Stomach is like a cauldron that is warm, bubbling away, digesting everything that goes in. Its job is to get the best goodness out of the food, and it is that job it should be expending its energy on.

However, when physically cold food (actual temperature wise) hits the warm juices in the Stomach, it brings down the temperature of the bubbling cauldron. So the Stomach therefore has to invest all of its energy into bringing the cauldron back up to optimum temperature for digestion, which means it overworks, doesn’t digest effectively, and in the longterm can become very depleted – leading to symptoms like tiredness in the morning, loose stools, undigested food in the stools, discomfort in the epigastrium (just below the rib cage, in the middle). Always bring food up to room temperature so the Stomach and Spleen don’t have to work as hard to digest it, plus you get more nutrients and more energy as a result!

Food as medicine can be incorporated into your treatment plan, to compliment the acupuncture prescribed. Each food has a particular flavour which pertains to one of the Five Elements. For example, the salty flavour belongs to the Water Element and enters its organ – the Kidney; so a little salt will benefit that organ, but too much will inhibit its action. And as mentioned earlier, eating dairy (and/or sugar, wheat, bananas, peanuts and fried foods) will make a phlegmy condition, such as sinusitis or cough, worse; consuming bitter (Fire Element) or pungent (Metal Element) flavours – onions, mustard, olives or green tea – will help clear the mucus. Chinese Food Energetics dietary advice can contribute towards a more effective overall treatment plan.

If you feel you could benefit from some dietary advice based in Chinese Medicine, email me on info@rhiannongriffiths.com or visit the “Acupuncture Plus” page on the website for more details.

© Rhiannon Griffiths 2011




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