Category Archives: Asides

A Happy Christmas to all NUDGE patients and friends: Bu tong ze tong, tong ze bu tong

If you can swing going for acupuncture this time of year, do it—regular acupuncture treatments are the best way to stay healthy and mentally balanced during high-stress times. But if you, like many people, are on a tighter schedule and budget for the coming month, AcuTake have got the next-best thing.

Top 10 Acupuncture Tips for Handling Holiday Stress

We asked acupuncturists from around the world to share one piece of acupuncture-inspired advice for reducing holiday stress. They had to be self-care tips that can be applied anytime, anywhere, and for free. Here are our 10 favorites:

Appreciate water
In acupuncture, each season has an associated natural element. Winter’s is water. As the holidays cue our wintery instincts, we can use water literally and metaphorically as a natural holiday de-stressor.

Acupuncturist Sara Szmodis of San Francisco recommends starting every day with a large glass of lukewarm water. Fill your favorite glass with water and drink it slowly, followed by taking some deep breaths into your abdomen. This morning ritual helps keep your body hydrated and relaxed at a time when more-than-usual amounts of alcohol and caffeine (both dehydrators) meet higher-than-usual stress levels.

Metaphorically, water serves as a model for coping with holiday stress. When stress starts to mount, close your eyes and imagine yourself as strong, yet fluid and flexible. You are easily able to adjust around whatever gets in your way.

Go with the flow (literally)
We hear this all the time. But from an acupuncture perspective this trite piece of de-stressing advice takes on a whole new meaning.

There is a famous Chinese medical saying: Bu tong ze tong, tong ze bu tong. This is roughly translated as, “If there is not free flow, there is pain. If there is free flow, there is no pain.” In other words, physical and emotional health are achieved when there is free flow throughout the channels of the body. Disease arises when the flow stops.

Portland, Oregon acupuncturist Alexis Goldstein says we can take this thinking and apply it to holiday stress. Things never go according to plan. Whether it’s to do with travel, food or gift-giving, Goldstein suggests trying to focus less on the details and more on your ability to flow through them. Keep flowing forward and you’ll have a less stressful holiday season.

Forget the ‘shoulds’
Acupuncture is centered around the notion that we are ever changing, evolving beings. Nothing is set in stone. There are no golden rules or absolute truths. When we fail to think of ourselves as the constant works-in-progress that we are, there’s a tendency to start imposing a lot of “shoulds” on ourselves.

I “should” invite my neighbor’s second cousin to dinner. I “should” spend at least $50 on a gift for my boss. I “should” have the house decorated by now. I “should” go to that party because the host sent me a card last year when my cat got neutered.

So many of us place undue expectations on ourselves, says New York City acupuncturist Po-Hong Yu. By making a real effort to stop the ‘shoulds,’ it frees you up to live without the pressure and guilt that has a tendency to increase this time of year. You’ll feel lighter and able to live more authentically.

Get out in nature
In acupuncture theory, humans are viewed as microcosms of the natural world that surrounds them. The natural elements are essential parts of all of us, and yet many of us fail to make time to commune with them, especially when the weather turns cold.

According to acupuncturist Annie Porter from Scottsdale, Arizona, taking just three minutes a day to notice the natural world around you can be a refreshing de-stressor amid the holiday madness. Porter recommends picking a piece of nature that inspires gratitude in you. It can be an old tree, a serene pond, or crystal white snow. Maybe it is just standing outside and feeling the solid earth under your feet, or the crisp wind against your face.

Getting out in nature at holiday time is not only a nice break but also a reminder of the magnificent gifts that surround us every day.

Strive for balance
Acupuncture is all about balance. The goal of treatment is to tonify (give to) areas of deficiency and reduce (take from) areas of excess. Delphine Baumer, an acupuncturist in Vancouver, British Columbia, reminds us that this principle applies to holiday gift giving and time management.

Think about time and money in terms of balance, says Baumer. If you find yourself with extra time in the coming weeks, offer help to those who don’t. If you’re really strapped for time, ask for help. With gifts, ask yourself what you can offer that will help others without hurting you. Gifts come in all forms and should feel good on the receiving and giving end.

Be like a mountain
In addition to balancing deficiencies and excesses, acupuncture focuses on balancing Yin and Yang. Yin-Yang theory assigns certain qualities to various aspects of our lives, depending on the context within which they reside.

Yin qualities are cold, dark, quiet, contracting, deficient, weak, delicate, soft-spoken, contemplative and introverted. Yang is hot, bright, loud, firm, expanding, excessive, robust, energetic and chatty.

In comparison to everyday life, the holidays are very Yang! They are high energy, fast moving, and filled with constant hustle and bustle. While fun, this can become stressful. It is important to infuse this time of year with Yin qualities so that we remain balanced, says New York City acupuncturist Nancy Byrne.

Byrne suggests a visual meditation where you imagine yourself as a mountain. A mountain is the ultimate Yin, says Byrne—solid, rooted and still, despite the winds swirling around it. When the whirlwind of the holidays seems to engulf you, take a moment to think of yourself as a mountain. This will help you find inner calm despite the frenzy happening around you.

Find middle ground
By encouraging balance—of Yin and Yang, and excess and deficiency—acupuncture teaches us to find middle ground and appreciate moderation. It becomes a metaphor for not over or under doing it in life.

Holidays generally involve a lot of over doing it—too much food, too many drinks, too much spending, too many late nights, too much stress. It happens, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for going to extremes in the other direction.

Los Angeles acupuncturist Laura Drago cautions against throwing off your regular routines because of a holiday slip. For example, don’t skip breakfast and try to burn 1,000 calories in a workout because you ate too much at the holiday party the night before. Extreme taxation on your body in either direction will throw things into further imbalance, says Drago. If you have a wild night, take a day to let your body recover and naturally regain its strength. (It might be a good time to try some acupressure for hangover.)

Rub your ears
The ear in acupuncture is a microcosm of the whole body, so ear points are used to address conditions that involve multiple systems. Since stress can wreak havoc throughout the entire body, treating the ears is an effective and efficient counter measure.

Rubbing your ears is a great stress-reduction tool, says San Francisco acupuncturist Eric Kerr. Use your thumb and index finger to apply acupressure to the whole ear, moving from the top of the ear down to the earlobes. You can do this simultaneously on both sides. Kerr demonstrates the technique in this video.

Brush your teeth with purpose
Acupuncture teaches us to tune into the ordinary. It heightens our awareness by requiring us to pay attention to subtle shifts. This is something we can practice on our own, by being more mindful in our daily routines. When we are more present in each moment, we aren’t bogged down by the various holiday stressors that surround us.

To practice this, Jorunn Krokeide, an acupuncturist in Oslo, Norway, suggests picking one seemingly mundane task—brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, taking out the garbage. Do this task with utmost presence. If it’s brushing your teeth, notice the way the brush feels in your hand, how the toothpaste lathers inside your mouth, the sounds of the brush against your teeth.

Presence and mindfulness are not about over thinking, but rather, letting go so that your heart and mind are free to truly experience the joys of the holiday season.

Remember your power
Acupuncture reminds us of our innate power. The driving idea behind acupuncture is that we already have everything we need to be well. We hold the power to heal ourselves. Philadelphia acupuncturist David Schiman says this idea can help us cope with holiday stress.

When you feel stress piling up, says Schiman, take a moment to ask yourself some questions: How am I handling myself? And when I look back on this in 10 years, am I acting like the kind of person I want to see? Schiman recommends reflecting on your answer and then striving to act consistently with your ideal self-image.

There is a tendency during stressful times to feel powerless, but you do have power over how you react to life and to holiday stress.


Prince Charles praises acupuncture in the Daily Mail – now I’m conflicted …

You have to wade through a long online article about the Royals’ dancing abilities before reaching this statement by Charles: ‘I know lots of people who find they aren’t benefited in every case by just the conventional, orthodox drug and finally discover that actually an approach – whether it’s herbal medicine or acupuncture or various other forms of complementary medicine – actually does benefit them. Thats all that needs to be said on the matter …

Read more:

The Fundamental Substances

photo (2) A rather cheesy (Qi-easy) poem that tries to summarise the workings of the fundamental substances in terms of  Traditional Chinese Medicine:

The Ancients had a way to understand our substantial qualities, they called them fundamental :Blood, Fluids,. Shen, Jing and Qi. All life has movement, and a coherent way; the energy of integration is Qi at play

For Qi is the expression of light, sound and electricity; magnetism, mechanics, hydraulics and all forms of energy. The Qi functions to contain and help activation; it wards off and warms, and moves towards transformation.

Qi likes especially to keep a healthy flow; as it courses through the meridians, and allows the organs to go. The Qi can be stagnant, empty or full; over exuberant, rebellious, a very useful tool.

Weakness and depression, lack-lustre fatigue, are signs of a weak Qi and low vitality. The Blood is nectar that’s pumped from the Heart; it nourishes the organs right from the start.

When full and strong, Blood enlivens the brain; enriches the muscles and tendons or else we feel drained. The Blood can be empty, toxic, congested or cold; stagnant, exuberant, hot or too old.

For the Blood does like freshness, movement and air; it likes to be clean, good foods and care. Pallor and dizziness, low pressure and tired; are signs of a weak blood longs to be inspired.

Qi is the father that pumps Blood through its course; Blood is the mother that nourishes Qi’s force. The Fluids keep us bathed in protection; lubricating, moistening and making secretions.

Saliva, tears, sperm and enzymes, sebum, sweat, mucus and chyme.These are a few of the Fluids we make; and so many others where liquid partakes.

Even our joints need liquid to work, or else there is friction where dryness does lurk.For Fluid can run dry and set aflame; or cause things to swell up, when oedema’s to blame.

Fluid is reflection of the state of our Yin, and can get murky where the Yang hasn’t been.If we run dry then Yin must be nourished, if we get stagnant, allow Yang to flourish.

At the seat of our Consciousness, clear and bright; lies the Shen, giving us spirit.The Shen animates our sorrow or joy; it even motivates us with the body in it’s ploy. 

A good strong clear Shen, drives us straight down our path; while the weak and decrepit, is depressed or in wrath.A Shen in balance is happy and upright, a Shen unsettled is unfocused and uptight.

At the core of our being is the Essence called Jing; it’s the source of development, and our ageing.Some Jing is acquired through food, love and air; other is inherited, by ancestral care.

If Jing is strong, we can live a long life; but if weak or drained, it shortens our plight.A strong Jing means coherence and longevity, a body put together well with vitality.

A weak Jing can drain us or cause malformation; retardation, disease and deformation.As we age we begin to sag; our hair turns grey and our libido may lag.

This is because Jing is spent on our youth, a wise one will guard Jing as much as Truth.For Jing kept protected will lengthen our life, while Jing that is wasted will lead us to strife.

While living remember these life’s greatest treasures; the Fundamental Substances which allow life’s true pleasures. 


World Thinking Day

Call me square, but I always nod towards Girl Guides World Thinking Day on 22nd February. It’s a day of friendship, advocacy and fundraising for 10 million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world. Nowadays the Guide Movement calls itself a feminist organisation, and I can see in my teenage years how being a Girl Guide shaped my feminism, courage and internationalism.

Two girls

On 22 February each year, Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world celebrate World Thinking Day by:

  • Learning about their international sisters in designated focus countries for the year
  • Doing fun and educational activities based around an advocacy theme for the year
  • Fundraising for the World Thinking Day Fund
  • Earning the World Thinking Day badge

Girl Guides and Girl Scouts have been celebrating World Thinking Day since 1926 and it has been an important fundraising day since 1932. Read all about the history of World Thinking Day.