Autumn series: About Grief and Letting Go & A Sweet Recipe

 
jerome-prax-60091-unsplash.jpg

As the cool crisp air of autumn mornings and warm afternoons begin to be apparent, we will start to shift our diet, and prepare our body and mental state to help us transition into cooler temperature and shorter daylight days.  Adjusting to the ebb and flow of the changing season can be challenging to some as the body and mind find it difficult to cope, or a pleasant welcome for others. 

Autumn in Chinese medicine belongs to the organ of Lungs and Large Intestines.  The Lungs govern our respiratory function and circulate our ‘Wei Qi’ also known as immunity or defence Qi around the body.  Wei Qi helps our body to adjust and protect us from the changes in the external environment.  Those with poor or compromised immune function might be prone to getting cold and flu like symptoms, dry throat and skin, and excessive mucous production and congestion.  Other may start to see an increase in digestive problems especially with bowel movements leaning towards constipation and dry stools. 

The emotion associated with the Lungs is sadness and grief.  We may start to feel a sense of low moods and noticeable mild depression.  The paired organ of the Lung, the Large Intestines, function as an organ of elimination.  This may be a good time to release and let go of emotions, career or baggage that we hold on to that no longer serve our highest good.

As nature slowly contracts and moves inward and downwards, we will begin to introduce warm and pungent spices such as horse radish, cardamom, chili, white pepper and coriander into our diet.  We will also see more white coloured food available such as the onion, garlic, cabbage, leek, radish, daikon turnip, fresh ginger, apple and pear.  These warming and pungent spices, and white coloured food are a great way to boost the function of the Lungs, aid in circulating Wei qi around the body and disperse and eliminate the stuck energy of the organ.  Another way to help strengthen your Lung Qi is to practise deep breathing exercises daily for 5 minutes.  It is also a great way to help reduce stress which can easily compromise our Lung Qi/immune function.

Try this simple autumn recipe by Gloria Chan @mgtestkitchen incorporating seasonal produce to help boost your Lung Qi – Enjoy!

GULA MELAKA POACHED PEAR

There’s nothing quite like comfort food as the colder months approach. Minimal effort and versatile, poached pears are great as a light and elegant dessert, or delicious with quinoa porridge to start the day.

To give the poached pears a deeper depth of flavour, try using Gula Melaka, a sweetener derived from coconut palm instead of caster sugar. It’s readily available in most Asian grocers or large supermarkets in solid or liquid form. Everyone’s palate is different, so have a play with the amount of sweetener until you find the perfect measure for you.

Ingredients

4 medium firm pears, peeled (leave stalks on)

Gula Melaka to taste (shaved from a block or liquid. Replace with coconut sugar if you’re unable to find Gula Melaka)

Star anise (1 large one, or 2 small ones)

Cinnamon stick (whole)

4-6 Cardamom pods

1 inch of fresh ginger (sliced)

Instructions

Place all ingredients in a pot and with water, ensuring that the pears are submerged entirely. Taste the poaching liquid and adjust with more Gula Melaka if required.

Bring the poaching liquid to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer (the bubbles should just be popping gently on the surface of the liquid). Poach for 1.5-2 hours, depending on the size of your pears. Pears are cooked once a knife spears through the thickest part easily.

Remove from poaching liquid and continue to reduce the liquid until it’s syrupy. Store the pears in the liquid until you’re ready to use them (they’ll store for up to a week, if you can stop yourself from finishing it in one sitting!).

 

Workshop - Facial Gua Sha: The Eastern Anti-Ageing Technique

 
Facial gua sha

Continuation from my previous gua sha workshop on musculoskeletal tension, this time back in Kuala Lumpur I offered a workshop on Facial Gua Sha.  Now you are wondering from the previous blog will those 'sha' appear on the face?  The answer is no!  The technique used for Facial Gua Sha is far more gentle than those used to relieve muscular tension, aches and pain.  The only similarity is the ability of the gua sha to bring more Qi and Blood to the face.

Facial Gua Sha – The Eastern anti-ageing technique has been used by ancient Chinese to keep their facial skin looking youthful and healthy.  Dubbed as the ‘Eastern Facelift” or “Eastern Botox” in current times, facial gua sha has the ability to smooth fine lines & wrinkles, plump, tighten, and rejuvenate tired skin.  This is achieved by using gentle gua sha techniques to the face that encourages circulation, lifting, rejuvenation and lymphatic drainage.  With daily and continuous practice, this method together with daily facial care will see the skin glowing, and benefit overall skin health.  In addition, facial gua sha is also extremely relaxing and a great way to have some “me” time.

It was a wonderful workshop that introduced facial gua sha techniques, how to use the gua sha tool and application on the face.  We talked about emotional factors that may cause premature lines and wrinkles, the Organs that governs that areas of the face, and meridians that transverse over the face.  We also discussed about dietary and lifestyle factors that may contribute towards ageing of the skin.  In addition, as part of Chinese medicine therapy, each participants were given individualised tongue and pulse diagnosis.  This gave each participants a more detailed diagnosis about specific changes in lifestyle and diet to minimise the signs of ageing.

Here are some photos taken at the workshop held at Prana Yoga Kuala Lumpur:

 

Workshop - Gua Sha: An Introduction to Self Healing

Gau Sha is one of my favourite 'go to' ancillary tool to reduce and ease muscular pain, stiffness and tension, plus for many other ailments such as cold and flu, chills and fever, bronchitis, and a fantastic therapeutic method for facial rejuvenation treatments.

Gua sha, also known as “spooning” or “scrapping” is a common therapeutic treatment used in Chinese tradition and Chinese medicine practice.  Gua means to rub or to scrape and Sha is a distinctive name given to a type of red dots or sand like redness that appears on the skin surface during and after treatment.  These sand like redness are toxins and stagnation that lie deep within the muscle layers that are brought up to the surface to be eliminated.  This encourage fresh blood flow to the site of blockage by nourishing and enhance healing to the body.  This method of treatment is effective and brings immediate and lasting benefits to ones overall health.

My lovely friend, Angeline from Prana Yoga Kuala Lumpur suggested that I run a workshop on gua sha during my visit to Malaysia.  She is a convert after I gave her some gua sha a couple of years ago to treat her chronic stiff neck and shoulders.  She felt immediate release and subsequently, with further treatments the stiffness was completely resolved.

The workshop was held in Prana Yoga on an overcast and humid Saturday afternoon.  The naturally lit and light wood flooring yoga space was a welcoming reprieve from the weather, and the perfect place to have the workshop.  The attendees that signed up were in good spirit and enjoyed each other company while giving gua sha to each other.  We started the workshop by going through the meridians that transverse on the neck, shoulders and upper back, and the primary and secondary signs and symptoms that is caused by the imbalance of these meridians.  We also briefly talked about other benefits of gua sha other than for the treatment of musculoskeletal symptoms before the hands on demonstration and gua sha techniques were introduced.  Below are some photos of the workshop and the results of the gua sha.  The redness on the body may look painful and 'hideous' but the therapeutic effects of releasing stagnation and stiffness of the neck, shoulders and upper back were felt immediately, and enjoyed by everyone that attended.

Here is a short video on the demonstration of doing gua sha

Wellness Series - Floor Series for the Tech Neck

 
Tech neck

We have collaborated with a registered yoga teacher, Angeline Liew from Prana Yoga Kuala Lumpur to give you some useful tips in this Wellness series called the "Tech Neck".

Do you spend hours in a fixed position, slouched in front of a computer, spine rounded, neck sticking out like a turtle craned towards your screen, wrists and jaw tensed without you even realizing it?  Do you complain of constant stiffness in the neck and upper back? I often find that these are the main culprits for clients that come in to the clinic for neck and shoulder tension and pain which can lead to temporal and/or occipital headaches.  In Chinese medicine perspective, aches, pain and tension is related to Qi and Blood Stagnation in  meridians.  In thes case of the "Tech Neck" meridians that are affected are the Bladder, Gallbladder, Large Intestine and Small Intestine channels.   Qi and Blood stagnation can also be exacerbated by stress, lack of exercise, and a sedentary lifestyle.

Here are a few simple yet effective yoga sequence designed by Angeline to ease tension in the neck and shoulders, and relief compression in the front body, whilst stretching out those tight knots, to enable more range of motion, and hopefully help to minimise the occurrence of headaches.  She highly recommend doing the Tech Neck series at least once a day.

tech neck.png
  1. Extended Puppy Pose - a delicious and deep chest & upper back opener. Modify by placing your forehead on the floor, instead of the chin, and let gravity assist your chest to sink to the floor.
  2. Shoelace Pose for the Arms - stretches the deep muscles between the shoulder blades (#rhomboids), posterior and lateral deltoids and upper arms.
  3. Intense Shoulder Stretch - one of my fave stretches to target the front muscles of the upper arms. By squaring the hips, you'll also get a nice upper back twist. Do support your head so that you don't end up straining the neck.
  4. Gomukhasana (Cow Pose arms) - works on increasing range of motion in the shoulders, as the top arm is externally rotated, and the bottom arm is internally rotated. Remember to switch sides, and use a towel or strap if you can't bind.
  5. Supported Chest Opener - one word : "Yummy"! Seriously, I can fall asleep in this pose, as it helps to deepen and regulate the breathing too. Block is placed at the bottom tips of your shoulderblade .
  6. Trigger Point Therapy for the Neck : Very gently turn the neck side to side, to self-massage the tightness in the neck.
  7. Trigger Point Therapy for the Arms : tension in the neck travels down the arms too, causing limited mobility. Here, I use lacrosse balls, but you can use tennis balls too. Target the front of the shoulders and #pectoral muscles (avoid the collar bones), and slowly move down the upper arm.

Remember to relax, and breathe deeply to allow your body to receive maximum benefit from the practice. (*Avoid lying on your belly if you're pregnant, and consult your teacher for alternatives), and if symptoms persist please seek professional help to remedy your condition.