Friday, April 27, 2007


Some days, I find myself overcome with a sense of gratitude for all the amazing people in my life. Today is such a day. I am flooded with a feeling of joy that makes my heart swell, and a sensation of warmth and expansion radiates through my chest. I feel blessed to have such wonderful people in my life, and I feel honored that they have chosen for me to be a part of their lives!

with love and gratitude,
- Angie

Thursday, April 26, 2007

laughing baby

smiles and laughther

As I was out running this evening on a beautiful, warm California April night, I pondered what to write about in my next blog entry. I asked myself what message I wanted to convey to my readers. The answer that came to me was that I wanted to post something which would make you smile. Something that would help you to reconnect with your joyful inner child. I remembered this video clip that a friend had shared with me in the past. How could this not make you happy? Laugh it up! Save the link to it, and watch it again whenever you are feeling down or blue.

There is a Qi Gong exercise called 'Laughing Qi Gong.' By making yourself laugh, even if you don't feel like it one bit to begin with, you can change the frequency of your energy. You can actually lift your spirits and turn your mood around! Remember this when you are feeling sad or depressed. Start with a smile. Smile at the next person you see. Or, if you are on your own, look in the mirror and smile at yourself. Close your eyes (or leave them open if you are driving!!) and feel the corners of your mouth and eyes soften and lift. Feel that smile wash over your body like a wave of positive energy. Then see if you can take that smile one step further and turn it into a laugh. If this seems too difficult to do, you can always reach for external 'tools' that will help. Rent a funny video. Listen to a song that makes you happy. Call up a friend who always makes you laugh. Read a comic book. Or do something really silly and laugh at yourself. Try out a new dance move. Jump up and down in the middle of your living room. Crack yourself up! The challenge is on!

with joy and happiness,
- Angie

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Our "rights"

Last night I was at a friend’s house when her mother came over to join in the girly gathering. I don’t know how it came to be, but we ended up talking about the taboo subject of gun control. In a somewhat dramatic display, the mother announced that it is “our right to bear arms and we should”. There was absolutely no coming back from that. It was not an argument, but a statement. Her sentiment, meant to be the end of the conversation. And it was. But I can’t really see it as a “thinking persons” argument. I mean, if we are going to talk about something, shouldn’t it be a conversation? Anyways, I am getting off point. Where I wanted to take this is that such vehemence about the “right” to bear arms surely would be better placed with an equal vehemence about our “right” to affordable, quality health care?

Is it not true that without our health, we would have nothing? Then why are we not standing up in more numbers and saying where we want our tax dollars to work?

In the meantime, let’s face it – we simply don’t get the face time we need with our doctors. Doctors are frequently over worked, and don’t have the time to talk about everything we might want to.

Enter Acupuncture. Because we spend so much time with our clients, we get to build up a bigger picture of their health. And because we have that bigger picture, it makes it a lot easier for us to say to a client “next time you are at your doctors, please ask him/her to do the following tests or rule out…”. There is a place for us as Acupuncturists to support and compliment the Western medical tradition. Not only that, but we also stand on our own as a viable, effective and holistic form of medicine that can help a range of disorders from headaches and migraines to allergies, neuropathy and chronic pain.

My message, if you are still reading after my rambling, stand up for your “rights” as a patient and get the health care you deserve. Advocate for yourself, and if you need help doing that, ask us.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

how Qi Gong changed my life

I was first introduced to Qi Gong five and something years ago during my first semester at Five Branches Institute. My first day of classes started with a Meridian Theory class. It was one of the most confusing classes of the entire program. All the concepts were so foreign and different from anything I'd ever studied. Even the way the material was presented was completely different from anything I'd ever been taught.

At 11 am that first Monday morning, with our heads buzzing from the first 2-hour lesson, my classmates and I patiently waited for our Qi Gong teacher to arrive, wondering what to expect from the next class. Little did I know then how much this class was going to transform my life! The practice of Qi Gong introduced me to a whole new way of approaching life. I learned how to be more centered and grounded. I learned how to live more consciously in my body. How to direct energy to various parts of the body. How to move energy when it gets stuck - and prevent it from getting stuck in the first place! How to combine movement with meditation. How to cultivate more energy for increased vitality. How to have a healing energy exchange with others.

After a series of more invigorating exercises and gentle stretches to warm up the body and loosen up the muscles, our teacher led us into a meditative flow. Slow, gentle movements, synchronized with the breath. Exercises designed to strengthen the body and bring energy to the various organ systems as outlined in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

We concluded the session with a short partner exercise, which involved massage of the neck and shoulders and knocking on the back. What a great way to end the class!

Anyone who has ever experienced acupuncture is probably familiar with the slightly light-headed and deeply relaxed feeling you often walk out of a session with, when the energy circuits in your body have been activated and you are 'buzzing' with Qi. Qi Gong leaves you with that same kind of feeling. After class, my classmates and I often felt like we were 'floating' out of the room, 'high' on Qi. It's not a surprise Qi Gong quickly became everyone's favorite and most looked-forward-to class! It was a welcome reprieve from the very confusing (and sometimes rather frustrating) first class every Monday morning and a great way to start the week! With the relaxation, centering, and stress relief that Qi Gong provides, I believe it is a great way to both start and end any day!

I took the mandatory Qi Gong II class in my second semester. Many of my classmates stopped there. But I was hooked! I took Qi Gong II again. Then Qi Gong I again. And Qi Gong Stretch (more similar to yoga). I went to all the Qi Gong workshops I could go to. Most of them taught by my teacher (
Lee Holden), and some by reknowned Chinese Masters travelling through the area. I did the Qi Gong teacher training, which included a weekend retreat that was mostly spent doing Qi Gong out in nature. Facing the moon in the evening after sunset, facing the rising sun in the early morning, and tapping into the energy of powerful trees in a beautiful redwood grove. It was amazing. Replenishing. Rejuvenating. I learnt a lot that weekend. About nature. About myself. About connecting with the earth and the universe.

Because Qi Gong had been such a life-altering discovery for me, I introduced my friends and family to it by teaching them the exercises I'd learnt in class. One day, several years back, Lee asked me to teach a class for him when he wasn't able to. This was my first professional Qi Gong class. When I started with Anna at Lokahi Acupuncture, I began teaching two Qi Gong classes a week in Willow Glen. I teach on Tuesdays at noon and Thursdays at 5:30 pm at
Halanda Studio on Lincoln Avenue.

Maybe you'll come join us for one of the next classes! I'd love to see you there and share my passion for Qi Gong with you!

Recently, my sister was in town visiting from Germany with her 3 kids. Here are some pictures of my 10-year old niece, Alicia, doing Qi Gong in our yard and my sister doing the partner-massage on her. Both Alicia and her 8-year old brother Leon came to my class and loved it! The other students were amazed to see the kids follow along with all the movements for a whole hour without getting bored or impatient!

I hope you'll discover the amazing benefits of Qi Gong as well - if you haven't done so already!

- Angie

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The yin & yang of headstands

Well, this has been quite a week of yoga-Chinese medicine enlightenment!
Last night's class saw us doing headstands and shoulder stands. I have to tell you that one of my deepest fears is going upside down - something to do with swinging on iron bars in the playground as a kid. Anyhow, as we were progressing through the class, I could see where the teacher was taking us, and it was indeed to the upside-down poses. But after last week and the Liver channel opening stuff, I felt myself able to cope with almost anything. All the folks in the class were happily flailing themselves up into all manner of headstands whilst I gradually plucked up the courage to go for it. Finally, with the help of both the teacher and an advanced student, I got up there, and stayed there for a good few seconds.
What a high! It was such an amazing experience being upside down with nothing supporting me but my shoulders and head (which was barely touching the ground as I was so paranoid about crunching my neck). It was definitely a slightly anxiety-producing position, but an exhilarating one at that.
The feeling of stepping completely out of my comfort zone was very important for me to do as it is something that I ask of my patients on a daily basis. Having acupuncture may seem like a very "normal" thing to do here in northern California, but it is still outside the boundaries of many of our comfort zones.
So, my message to you: get out there and push one of your boundaries ... see if it feels good to you! Happy Wednesday, everybody!

Friday, April 6, 2007

What in the world?

I admit it, there are times when even an acupuncturist doubts the wisdom of using needles and herbs where western medications would seem to deal with a problem quicker. But this week I was proven wrong in quite an astounding way...
The weather here in San Jose has been, lets say "unpredictable" - at best. Part of my journey has long been the dealing with frequent, debilitating headaches/migraines where changes in barometric pressure, more than anything else, trigger them. So, you can imagine living in San Jose is, for the most part, almost ideal - balmy, dry, sunny days. Heaven. Not this week!
So, my usual routine takes me out of the office on Tuesday evenings to my yoga class. I love it. It is my "non-negotiable". Last Tuesday, on a particularly muggy and unpredictable day, off I trotted to my class, and came out enraged! Absolutely beside myself with anger and irritability! I thought to myself "what in the world can have happened in that yoya class...?". I was telling Angie the story the next day (MAJOR migraine day, by the way), and was showing her that we had done alot of inner groin work that evening in yoga, when it hit me ... hard. We had worked on the LIVER meridian - the very meridian that is associated with this time of year, and often with anger, frustration and resentment. I think the yoga had allowed a very deep opening and done some unblocking. Hooray for me!
But why on earth did I have such a bad headache the next day? Rather than deal with another earth-shattering realization, I decided to try and nip it in the bud with an Imitrex injection (it was getting to be pretty bad, fast). That didn't help. A second injection didn't help either. An hour of cranio-sacral didn't do much, neither did the 4 avdil and a frappacino (I was getting desperate, and had a very full patient load). Finally, Angie came in to the office, and I was able to get her to do some cupping and gua sha (scraping) - these are techniques we use to release muscle tension and "ground" the body. Low and behold, within minutes, the headache was much reduced, and within the hour, totally gone!
What did I get out of this whole episode? A newly restored absolute faith in what I do; a reminder that while it is easy for me to see what is wrong and take care of others, taking care of myself is still a hard thing for me to do; and a whole new respect for my practitioner - Angie.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

continuing education

In order to maintain your license current as an acupuncturist in the state of California, you need to complete 50 units of continuing education every two years. Living here in the Bay Area, we are lucky to have a large selection of great seminars we can attend nearby without travelling. Acupuncturists living in more remote parts of the country are offset not only the costs of the seminars, but need to spend large amounts of time and money on travel, as well. I consider myself very spoiled to be living in an area that has so much to offer in terms of workshops, lectures and cultural events - not only in my field of study, but in so many other areas of interest!

I realized a week or two ago that I was still short about a dozen of CEUs for my license renewal deadline at the end of April. Because my weekends over the next month were already pretty booked up and there was no particular seminar nearby that struck my fancy, I decided to order a distance learning course from Blue Poppy Institute. These are live seminars that were recorded on CD and come complete with all the handouts and notes. I chose a course on Treating Chronic Digestive Disorders with Traditional Chinese Medicine. Given my own background with digestive issues, treating digestive disorders has always been of particular interest to me. Although a fair amount of the information presented in the course was a repetition of material I have already learned, I learned a lot more by listening to it. Some information was new to me, and some was old information that I just needed to be reminded of. Several passages caused little light bulbs to go on in my head and left me with the feeling of an a-ha effect. One section in particular struck a chord with me. Bob Flaws, the presentor of the course, was discussing abdominal distention and bloating. These symptoms indicate a deficiency of "Spleen and Stomach Qi." The Spleen and Stomach, in TCM, are of primary importance for a smooth and healthy digestion. When the Spleen and Stomach systems are out of balance, digestion becomes impaired.

What causes an imbalance in the Spleen and Stomach systems? Let's back up for a moment and talk a bit about the "Liver system." The Liver, in TCM, is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi, or energy, in the body. When the Liver is disharmonious, energy isn't flowing freely and things get "stuck." We call this pattern "Liver Qi stagnation." Signs of Liver Qi stagnation include depression, irritability, anger, frustration, flank pain (pain in the ribcage), distending pain, headaches, and PMS.

When the Liver is stagnant and in excess, it has a tendency to "overact on" or "invade" the Spleen and Stomach, causing the latter to become "disharmonious."

In Chinese Medicine, every organ's Qi has a direction in which it is supposed to flow. Spleen Qi is supposed to go up, bringing clear energy to the head. Stomach Qi should descend and lead turbidity downwards. When Spleen Qi fails to ascend, symptoms such as loose stools, diarrhea, water retention in the legs, fatigue, and foggy thinking result. When Stomach Qi rebels upward, one will experience hiccup, belching, acid reflux, nausea or vomiting. Additionally, the Stomach may fail to empty its contents properly, causing food to just 'sit there.' This is when we experience a feeling of bloating and distention. Appetite will likely be poor, and eating anything at all will make us feel worse, as the Stomach can't handle what's in it already, let alone anything we may be adding to it.

Liver Qi stagnation is the main cause of a Spleen and Stomach disharmony, and - here's what really struck me, as I hadn't heard it put this way before - according to Bob Flaws, the #1 cause of Liver Qi stagnation is unfulfilled desire! Wow!! Looking back at times in my life when my digestion was it its worst, yes, I would definitely say I was experiencing some unfulfilled desire!

When you get sick or experience physical discomfort, do you stop to think of the psycho-somatic connection? Do you see a correlation between what you are going through emotionally and what's showing up in your body?

Bob Flaws brought up another very interesting point in this course. He spoke about the importance of compassion and bedside manner. Those elements play such an integral part in the healing process. According to Bob, 40% of all healing is placebo! He remarked to his audience of acupuncturists that, if they weren't seeing at least 40% improvement in their patients, they might want to consider a different profession! I strongly believe in the importance of compassion in the healing process! I also believe it is crucial to find a pracitioner you connect with on an energetic level in order to obtain the greatest possible benefit from your treatments. Interestingly, oftentimes, seeing the most experienced or distinguished practitioner won't necessarily yield the best results. I believe the best results are achieved when you find a person you feel a healing connection with - whether it be a seasoned practitioner or a novice in her field.

To find the right practitioner for you, let your intuition guide you. Listen to your gut when you are considering a new healthcare practitioner. Talk to the person and feel them out. Sense whether their energy and their way of relating to you makes you feel comfortable and at ease. If you feel an uneasiness in your gut about that person, keep looking (just be sure you aren't confusing it with your own reluctance to take control of your health and seek out help!). If you feel a sense of calm around that person, explore how they might be able to help you further!

In health & happiness,