Category Archives: Evergreen Rising

THE YIN & YANG OF SLEEP

Are you starting to feel the rising Spring energy? The winds, chaotic weather, and beginning of more daylight? With this shifting and rising energy many people may notice some kind of sleep disturbance. Almost one-third of the US population is affected by insomnia on at least an occasional basis. Given the prevalence of insomnia in today’s society, the need is great for effective treatment. Though drugs used in Western Medicine may provide acute relief, they often fail to address the root cause of the insomnia and may have unwanted side-effects. The approach taken by Chinese Medicine is to balance the individual as a whole and treat the root energetic cause of the imbalance.

FiveElementCycle

What is sleep?

“If sleep doesn’t serve an absolutely vital function, it is the greatest mistake evolution ever made.” -Allan Rechtschaffen, Ph.D.

Sleep is generally defined as an active state in which the body and mind are less responsive. It is believed that sleep is a restorative process.1

Sleep is composed of different stages:1,2

  • Stage 1– light sleep, between awake and falling asleep
  • Stage 2– onset of sleep, disengage from surroundings, regular breathing and heart rate
  • Slow wave sleep (3-4)-deepest and most restorative, blood pressure drops, slower breathing. Relaxed muscles, tissue growth and repair, energy restored, hormones released
  • REM– 25% of night, about every 90 minutes, energy to brain and body, brain is active, dreams occur, eyes move but otherwise immobile
  • “Good” sleep allows all stages to be completed in many cycles (3-4).

What is insomnia?

The problem of insomnia in our society is huge and complex. However, from the perspective of the average citizen, it is like the weather – everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything.” -William C. Dement, M.D., Ph.D.

Insomnia is characterized by difficultly initiating or maintaining sleep.  Consequences of insomnia include impaired daytime functioning, irritability and mood disturbance, fatigue and sleepiness.  Insomnia comprises both daytime and nighttime components, with the perception that sleep is short or fragmented with associated negative daytime consequences. 3

  • Most frequent sleep disturbance- 30-35% “mild” or “occasional;” 10-15% “severe” or “chronic”
  • Negatively impacts work, physical, and social performance and overall quality of life
  • May come from general hyperarousal
  • More easily aroused from sleep and slower to return
  • Link with levels of waking arousal (heart rate)
  • Elevated HPA-axis activity and cortisol

Despite the prevalence and impact of insomnia, it is not often recognized or treated by many physicians.4  When insomnia is treated in Western Medicine, pharmacological treatments are often used (though cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective).  Chinese Medicine focuses on the individual’s unique pattern and designs a unique treatment to balance the individual’s qi.

The Yin and Yang of Sleep

Ideas about health in Chinese Medicine are based on the yin and yang energy. These energies are interdependent, in opposition, always in motion, and transform into each other. To be in good health, one’s yin and yang energy must be balanced moving, not blocked.

YinYang

In Chinese Medicine sleep and wake are viewed as yin-yang to each other. According to this, consciousness and waking are the result of yang energy rising to the head.5 Sleep is the result of the yang energy descending back to the core after it has been used by the day’s requirements to be nurtured by the yin.During sleep, yang energy that has been depleted is nourished and revitalized to be used again upon awakening.  The body’s yin and yang energy follow the light of the sun and ascend and descend accordingly.

Causes of Insomnia

For good sleep, yin and yang energy must be balanced. According to Chinese Medicine, one reason insomnia may result is because the yin energy becomes very week (e.g., as a result of aging) and cannot control the yang energy.  Thus, the yang energy may flow upward and ascend when it should not.  The yang energy may be depleted by the end of the day so that the person is able to fall asleep, but if there is inadequate yin energy to keep the yang down it will rise upward too early, resulting in an inability to fall back asleep.  In general, anything that results in yang energy rising and moving outward will exacerbate insomnia.4 Chinese medicine (e.g., acupuncture) may treat insomnia by stimulating the body to produce more blood and yin.

Factors leading to insomnia through an imbalance of yin and yang in the body include:

  1. Excessive/ over-active thinking
  2. Frustration or emotional stress depressing flow of qi OR Yang energy, moves upward, disturbing the tranquility of the heart.
  3. Excess activity; Yang hyperactivity resulting from insufficient yin
  4. Lack of exercise, poor diet (including eating greasy or fatty foods).
  5. Being overweight
  6. Overeating a large meal before bed; causes an acute case of insomnia by blocking the yang energy from returning to the body’s interior.

Tools and Practices to Improve Sleep

Practices that address Yin/ Yang imbalance:

  • Acupuncture and Acupressure
    • Improves sleep quality and quantity6
  • Meditation
    • Improves daytime functioning following sleep loss7
    • May decrease sleep need in long-term meditators7
  • Yoga
  • Spending time outside in Nature
  • Essential Oils
    • Lavender inhalation improves sleep quality8
    • Lavender works to decrease general arousal and excitability of the body and nervous system.9

 

Tracy (2)Evergreen Practitioner & Contributing Writer:  Tracy Rupp Hockmeyer Ph.D., M.Ac., L.Ac. practices Five Element Acupuncture; a nature inspired and based medicine with its fundamental principles based on the movement and energetics of nature. She specializes in sleep and addressing sleep complaints.  With her background in research and practice as an acupuncturist, Tracy offers a knowledge base from both Eastern and Western medicine. She addresses individuals’ sleep complaints using acupuncture, essential oils, and lifestyle recommendations.

References:

  1. www.sleepfoundation.org
  2. Purves D (2004). Sleep and Wakefulness. In Purves D, et al., ed. Neuroscience, 3rd ed.. Sunderland, MA, U.S.A.: Sinaur Associates, Inc. Ch. 27.
  3. Drake CL, Roehrs T, Roth T (2003). Insomnia causes consequences and therapeutics: An overview. Depression and Anxiety18, 163-178.
  4. Sateia, M.J. (2002). Epidemiology, Consequences, and Evaluation of Insomnia. Sleep Medicine. Editors Lee Chiong, T.L., Sateia, M.J., Carskadon, M.A. 151 – 160.
  5. Flaws (1997).
  6. Cao et al. (2009). Acupuncture for Treatment of Insomnia: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15 (11).
  7. Kaul et al., (2010). Meditation acutely improves psychomotor vigilance and may decrease sleep need. Behavioral Brain Function, 6.
  8. Goel, N., Kim, H., & Lao, R.P. (2005). An olfactory stimulus modifies nighttime sleep in young men and women. Chronobiol Int, 22, 889-904.
  9. Duan X, Tashiro M, Wu D, et al. (2007) Autonomic nervous function and localization of cerebral activity during lavender aromatic immersion. Technol Health Care, 15, 69–78

BENEFITS OF YOGA

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Medical doctors are now prescribing yoga along with or instead of exercise as a therapeutic.  It is well established that exercise is a means of acquiring and keeping the body healthy.  Now, there are numerous studies indicating profound changes towards wellness with a simple, and regular yoga practice.  More and more doctors are directing their patients to find a yoga class or  a yoga teacher.

Why yoga?  While exercise and yoga are both beneficial, traditional exercise regimens usually stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, making it tiring, and often stress inducing.  Yoga, on the other hand, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, making it relaxing and stress reducing.  Stress has been determined to be a major cause of illness in the typical American lifestyle.

Exercise typically uses rapid, forceful movements and increases muscle tension, thereby increasing the risk of injury.  Yoga uses slow, dynamic movements that become progressively more challenging.  This reduces muscle tension and creates a lower risk of injury to muscles and ligaments.

Yoga emphasizes balance and trains the practitioner to develop better balance, not only in the body, but in the mind and emotions as well. The emphasis on deep, steady, rhythmic breathing in yoga is both energizing and calming. The taxed breathing in exercise often creates fatigue and restlessness.

We often burn more calories with exercise than with yoga. However, after exercise, we’re hungry and with a stimulated sympathetic nervous system, food cravings typically occur. The result is that we can easily eat more calories than were burned. Following a practice of yoga, if there is hunger, it’s more balanced, and the mind is drawn toward healthy foods and a relaxed pace in eating. This allows the digestive tract to perform optimally, extracting the nutrients from the food, and delivering a sense of satisfaction. With yoga, the tendency to overeat is greatly reduced.

The emphasis in yoga is on internal awareness, and engaging body, mind, and spirit to bring wellness to the individual. A successful yoga practice creates a sense of balance and lightness in the body and joyfulness in the mind. It’s process oriented, non-­-competitive, and presents limitless possibilities for growth in self-­-awareness.  So when faced with the question of whether to do yoga or exercise, you might consider a bit of both each day. If forced to choose, however, yoga will bring you further along the path toward wellness. So, find a good yoga teacher in your area to help you find a healthier, more balanced you!

This week’s contributor:
lynda

Lynda Barrow has over eleven years experience as a yoga teacher and has an RYT – 500 certification with Yoga Alliance.  To learn more and work with Lynda consider joining her Intermediate Yoga class Mondays 6 – 7:30 PM.

Ease into Fall – Creating Balance in Times of Transition

The Beatles give us a lesson in “Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be”. . . 

We are in a seasonal time of stillness, of fullness, of holding, and a time of quiet transformation.  The abundance, made apparent hanging on the vines and trees, the heat of the sun, and the heavy air all seem to be asking us to be still, to take this all in.   This time before the brisk change of Fall reminds us to Let it be.  Some of us are holding on to the past, wishing the exuberance and heat of summer wouldn’t leave so soon, and others are pushing forward into the the cool dryness of Autumn.  But now is the time of acceptance for what is – right here and now – Let it be.

This time of stillness may feel stagnant for some – frustrating, heavy, and difficult.  The natural flow of things has taken a pause and we are left to sit with all of our accumulated choices. – Let it be. Others may feel put at ease by this respite being offered, deficiencies filled by the lush damp air. But there is often an anxious sense here that it will not last forever. – Let it be.

“Whisper words of wisdom, Let it be.”
 

Transitional times can be hard, and often leave us open to outside influences – good and bad.  It is important to take steps to help balance the body, mind, and spirit and give a sense of ease to the transition in order to stay healthy throughout the coming seasons.

5 Steps to help balance during times of transition:

1.  Make movement a daily habit.  Movement helps keep the body, mind, and spirit flexible and oxygenates our blood to remove stagnation and patterns of holding.

2. Go to bed early & wake early. Let your body be in rhythm with the cycles of the earth, sun, and moon. This practice will energize and bring joy.

3. Nourish.  Eat regular meals according to your body type/constitution.  In general, opposites work to help balance.  For instance, if you are feeling heavy and lethargic, eat light, dry, warming/moving foods.  If you are feeling deficient, dry, and anxious, eat more unctuous, substantial, and naturally sweet foods.
(For more information on this consider joining our Yoga: A Path of Self Healing class, and Robert Messick’s Ayurvedic Fall Cleanse Workshop.)

4. Hydrate.  Drinking plenty of clean water helps the body flush built up toxins and restore the proper pH.  It gives structure and life to every cell in the body.  It keeps us fluid and able to adapt more easily.

5. Protect.  During transitional times (seasonally or in other cycles of life) the body is more susceptible to outside influences.  This affects the health of our bodies, the integrity of our immune systems, and the balance of our emotional state.  Protection can come in many forms.  It is a reflection of our boundaries in the world, and of our personal integrity.  Do not open yourself to extremes – If it is cold and windy, wear warm clothes and cover the back of the neck.  If it is hot and humid, do not exert so much energy – there is enough heat, no need to create more.  A calming Ayurvedic practice to help protect is to oil the bottoms of the feet, and inside the ears with sesame oil.

Listen to the wisdom of the body and be true to yourself, to your inner nature.

This week’s contributor:

Freya Farley NEWFreya Farley, M.Ac., L.Ac. is a practitioner of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine at Evergreen’s Wellness Center. Through these modalities Freya helps facilitate the body’s natural ability to heal itself and move back towards a state of balance and relaxation. Freya’s practice at Evergreen specializes in Women’s Health and Fertility treatments.  She encourages her clients to take an active role in their own health and well-being and offers support and lifestyle coaching that is unique to each persons specific needs.

Golden Milk – An Evening Drink That Can Change Your Life

Adapted from “Healthy Food Place”

“Golden Milk” is a beautiful, tasty and incredibly healthy drink especially suitable for drinking in the evening, and the benefits are outstanding.
The main ingredient in this recipe is turmeric. Turmeric contains curcumin, polyphenol identified as the essential active ingredient, which reaches over 150 potential therapeutic activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Golden-Milk-Drink

In combination with the black pepper, the benefits of the curcumin increase considerably.

Additional advantages:

• Anti-inflammatory activity, antioxidant, antiseptic, analgesic
• Strengthens the immune system
• Anti-carcinogen
• Helps in the maintaining of the cholesterol levels
• Improves the digestive health
• Detoxification of the liver
• Regulates the metabolism and controls the weight
• High blood pressure
• Memory and brain
• Various skin conditions
• Neurological disorders
• Reduces Triglycerides

By adding black pepper into dishes seasoned with turmeric, the bioavailability of curcumin is increased for about 1000 times, due to the piperine, the pungent property of the black pepper. Yes, you have read it right, by mixing the turmeric and the black pepper together, the body absorption of turmeric is increased to 2000%!

Golden Milk

Step 1 – Turmeric Paste

Ingredients:
• 1/4 cup of turmeric powder
• 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper
• 1/2 cup of filtered water

Preparation:
Mix all ingredients in a small cooking pot and stir well. Turn the heat to a medium and mix constantly until the mixture becomes a thick paste. It does not take a long time, so do not leave the stove. Let the mixture cool off, and then keep it in a small jar in the refrigerator.

Step 2 – Golden Milk

Ingredients:
• 1 cup of milk (dairy, almond, hemp, or coconut milk are good options – I Love Tempt Coconut Hemp Milk)
• 1 teaspoon of ghee or coconut oil
• 1/4 (or more) teaspoon of turmeric paste
• Raw Honey

Preparation:
Mix all ingredients in a cooking pot, except the honey. Turn the heat to medium. While you are heating the mixture, you must stir constantly and do not let it boil. Add honey according to your taste.

Enjoy!