Sunday, April 10, 2011

Can Acupuncture Cure My Astrology?

If you would be so kind and allow me to indulge briefly in some astro-jargon:  A Mars return is an astrological event which apparently happens to each of us every two years.  When we are born, the position of Mars – and all the planets, for that matter – becomes part of who we are.  And since Mars' orbit lasts roughly two years, a phase of re-definition of the planet's meaning hits us on the same schedule.  We are most familiar with the sun's position in our charts, as in "What's your sign?", and a solar return is also known as a birthday.   Somewhat well-known in certain circles is the Saturn return.  This is recognized as a major event that takes place between the ages of 28 and 30 in which nearly all aspects of life may be turned upside down (read: relationship, health, and job turbulence).

According to the charts, I have a Mars return coming up very soon.  I did some research to find out more about what I can expect.  In laymen's terms:  A period of high physical energy, increased inclination for conflict and accidents, a greater probability of run-ins with authority figures, particularly men, and a deconstruction of perceived conventions which I will soon discover are defunct.  Having more energy is always appealing, but unfortunately the rest of the forecast doesn't really sound like an easy weekend.

On the other side of this equation is another energy system:  my twice-weekly appointment with my favorite local acupuncturist Diana Vuong, whom I have known for almost ten years.  Her knowledge of the meridians extends beyond the body; she can also relate discontents with your health to nature and the cosmos.  Not that she means to be a mystic, it is merely a result of her very thorough training in China.  For example, just as the year is divided into the zodiac in western astrology, traditional Chinese medicine divides the year by the organs:  Fall is lung season, Spring is kidney season, and so forth.  Babies born in the fall, for example, tend to be more susceptible to weakness of the lungs.  

Knowing this, would it be possible for Diana to diagnose that I'm experiencing a Mars return?  Would my pulse be different, my elements be too hot or dry, and my liver chi be stagnated?  Furthermore, would she be able to counteract Mars in my body with needles and herbs that strengthen, say, Venus and the Moon?  And by cooling my life energies, could she spare me from potential hardships which might teach me about the nature of Mars?

I am going to give it a try starting this week.  I will let you know if and how Diana's treatments abate the affects of the red planet's return.

Visit these links:
Excellent acupuncture in Downtown San Francisco: 
Diana Vuong, LAc

Humanistic astrology in San Francisco:
Jessica Murray is a woman who possesses the wisdom of the ages.  And I know that she would have my hide for writing so simplistically about astrology.  What she teaches is infinitely more complex.  Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rolfing and Body Weight Part 2: The Vocabulary of Beauty

"You know something strange," the woman in my office started to tell me, "Ever since I started getting my Rolfing sessions, people keep asking me if I've lost weight.  But I haven't.  I keep getting comments like 'You look great!  Did you lose weight?'  What's going on?"

This happens, I've heard about it many times.  People who receive Rolfing do look better, and most of the time it has nothing to do with weight.  But our society lacks the proper, sophisticated vocabulary to talk about wellness and health.  Instead, we are bombarded by media that grunts in the primitive binary language of "fat" and "thin", and the only verbs are "lose" and "gain."  Thus, we observe the phenomenon that the word "thin" is equated with "beautiful."  It is no wonder, then, that words that relate to body weight are the only words most people have to talk about our appearance.  That said, it is true that some people who go through the Rolfing series not only feel longer and lighter, they also look longer and lighter.  For example, it certainly flatters the figure when the shoulders aren't hugging the ears anymore.

In any case, I'd like to introduce a few words to your vocabulary that refine the concept of looking good.  They are also words that we Rolfers use amongst each other to describe what we see.

"Embodied."  To be embodied is such an important part of holistic wellness that a good third of the Rolfing training is dedicated to this, called Embodiment.  It means "inhabiting the body", or, in daily speak, "being present."  We all know what someone is like when they are emotionally absent, but we Rolfers can also detect when someone is physically absent in their bodies, even in localized parts of their bodies.  A person who is not embodied can be described as stiff, out-of-touch, or awkward.  People who are embodied, on the other hand, are graceful, expressive, and possess something called body awareness.

"Oxygenated."  Also commonly known as "glowing."  We commonly witness oxygenation on a person's face, maybe after a yoga class or eating a bountiful green salad.  But true oxygenation is more than just rosy cheeks; it's an overall peachy, supple complexion (compared to the middle-aged smoker's pallid skin).  Individual body parts can also be inadvertently deprived of oxygen through muscle tension or bad posture so that they fail to glow.  I see this most often in lower legs and feet, or even in lumbar regions of the back, as well as, of course, the face.  During a Rolfing series, as the body's magnificent parts begin to co-operate, not only is there greater embodiment, but also a visible quality of glowing as the legs, back, and other hitherto neglected muscle groups are flooded with oxygen.  Often referred to as "looking younger."

"Innervation."  Innervation is the biological process of nerve growth and maintenance that leads to grace and mobility.  Imagine that you have one room in the house which you never use.  Eventually, dust accumulates, and over time you find that it's economical to turn off the electricity and heating in that room to save energy.  It turns out that your body thinks the same way about nerves and tissues:  Use it, or start shutting it down.  So when parts of your body are immobile, why continue supplying those muscles and tendons with expensive nerves?  I see this most often in people's feet, which have sometimes been so cooped up in shoes that they become stiff and paddle-like even in their leisure time.  The result: the person hobbles like a stick figure.  However, Rolfing not only restores long-lost movement, but also gives the entire body function.  Thus, once a person begins using the foot properly in walking, the entire body above it moves more gracefully. 

"Range of motion."  We usually only hear this in relation to shoulders, hips, and neck.  But is also applies to all the hundreds of joints in your body that add up to how you function and move.  Your diaphragm also has a range of motion, in all directions, and a decrease affects how much oxygen you breathe in.  There is also range of motion in the spine, which should undulate with every step.  When the many articulating surfaces of the spine become immobile, people start to lurch or hobble.  Rolfing releases this, so I often observe my clients becoming slinkier and more fluid.

Does graceful, slinky, supple, and fluid all sound good?  I agree, and I'm grateful that bringing these qualities into other people's lives is my job.

"Well, you certainly look embodied today!"