As an accompaniment to the movement studio's focus on the breath this month, we'll be offering articles looking at the themes surrounding the breath and the lungs through the lenses of our other practitioners, modalities and various perspectives. Enjoy!
In Chinese Medicine each anatomical organ is associated with an entire energetic channel network that runs through the body. Additionally, each organ network serves as a symbol that has resonance with the natural world. It resonates with a particular season, direction, color, emotion, sound – there are many symbols the Chinese have associated with the organs over the years. If you want to dig in a bit deeper, you can read this brief article on Eric Grey's website, Chinese Medicine Central, about the classical Chinese concept of organ systems.
Understanding our physical organs through symbol offers us the opportunity to relate to our body in a more accessible way than the mere anatomical functions that we are familiar with through textbooks.
Beginning to explore these connections within our own body can open new ways of relating to both our internal and external environment, and also be an aid in our personal healing journey. These symbol associations are based upon an intricate science developed from the wisdom of ancient Chinese civilizations who closely recorded the interaction between the human body and the seasons/cycles of planet earth and the cosmos. Just as plants go through cyclical changes each year, so do we as humans.
Learning to live in harmony with these changes are key to our health, happiness and longevity.
We can understand this concept by examining the Lung organ network. The Lungs are a symbol of harmony as seen in the ever present rhythm of our breath. The Lungs have the ability to bring in what the body needs (oxygen) and discard what no longer serves (carbon dioxide), constantly maintaining balance. The Lungs are an important organ network in the Fall and Winter as they are related to our immune system. They have a close connection to our skin and serve as a barrier for keeping harmful pathogens outside of the body.
The Lungs are also connected with the metal element, which has a downward direction, resonant with the season of fall.
During fall the energy above ground is moving down and in, preparing to enter deep within the earth for wintertime hibernation and the eventual springtime regeneration. An example of this can be seen by observing a tree in the fall, who drops its leaves down to the ground. The leaves then decompose into the soil and after a long winter, provide nourishment for the roots of the tree and new green springtime growth.
By bringing awareness to what is happening in nature, we are able to understand how our body and being can best be in alignment during particular times of the year. Thus the fall is a good time for letting go of what we do not want to carry with us into hibernation and beyond. Energetically we begin to conserve our resources, drawing the outward yang energy inside to our core, lighting our internal fire that will keep us warm and inspired throughout the dark of winter.
Developing a qigong or movement practice as well as a breathing practice during this time can greatly benefit our health.
In the early spring the tiny seed requires robust energy in order to burst through the thin frost covering the earth. We too as humans rely upon the adequate energy reserve that we intentionally stored and carefully guarded within. When the springtime comes we will be strong and fit for bringing our new creations and dreams fully to life once again.
One final thought is that the Lungs are particularly sensitive to grief.
Grief can arise due to many of life's ups and downs, including: loss of loved ones, loss of parts of self and longing for a reality other than what is. Grief is a natural part of the human experience and shall be honored as such. Just as the tree may grieve the loss of it's leaves as they fall to the ground, the human too may grieve the loss of whatever was. But both the tree and the human are constantly reminded that the future holds the steady rhythm of the untold mystery of regrowth.
Interested in learning more?
We have a weekly Qigong class instructed by Hilly Shue, LAc that incorporates theory from Chinese Medicine in a gentle and informative way. This gentle movement class is accessible to everyone. Questions? Reach out!
Interested in what Qigong looks like? Check out this short demo by Hilly.
Our July focus at the Watershed Wellness Yoga Studio is a deep dive into the structures of the hips and adjacent musculature that help keep us upright and mobile. Our Summer Yoga Special makes all of our classes budget friendly, and can be a great way to spend some focused time on a specific body part. Nervous about trying out a class at Watershed Wellness? Here's a quick article that will answer your common questions about what to expect at our studio.
Are you one of the millions of Americans who live with lower back pain? One of the primary reasons that students come to yoga at Watershed Wellness is to help with back pain relief. Our students experience this pain in a variety of ways:
- Achy in the muscles of the hip or lower back
- A sharp pain in a joint around the hip, either at the very base of their back, the front of their hip or deep in the inner thigh
- Shooting pain that has an electric or numbing quality in the hip or down the leg.
This pain, regardless of its quality, can inhibit mobility and limit our daily activity. I’ve found that movement helps. In fact, there's been compelling research done that shows that movement is more helpful for lower back pain than rest. It’s when we stop moving that things settle in and get worse.
Additionally, if we continue to move and find the mobility in our musculature and joints, focusing on strengthening some very key muscles can help to provide support to the Sacro-Iliac (SI) joint, which is often compromised in cases of lower back pain.
In an effort to further understand our own bodies and how they work, it’s a worthwhile effort to have an understanding of the anatomy and kinesiology of this complicated part of the body.
Let’s take a look at the anatomy first.
The pelvis is comprised of three bones: two Ilium (pelvic bones) and your Sacrum.
The Sacrum is a continuation of your spinal vertebrae and is made up of 5 fused vertebrae. It's connected to the coccyx, your tailbone. At the base of the pelvic bone, the Ilium, is the Ischial tuberosity, or sits bone. This is the bony prominence that we are meant to sit up on.
If you're sitting in a chair reading this, find your sitting bones by rocking back and forth and paying attention to the bony parts that you can feel at the bottom of your pelvis. These are your sitting bones. They are important to point out, as these are made to support our pelvis, but when we sit we often tuck our pelvis under and round through the lower back.
This causes us to sit on our tailbone, which isn't meant to support our body weight.
At the lower front of the pelvis is the articulation between the head of the femur and the hip socket (acetabulum) that creates the hip joint. This ball and socket joint joins the pelvis and the thighs and supports the weight of the body while allowing for mobility. The outer edge of the acetabulum is lined with a strong ring of cartilage called the labrum. The capsule is reinforced by four ligaments that wind around the head of the femur.
These ligaments twist and untwist as we move our upper leg bone to create mobility and stability of the hip joint.
At the top of the hip in the articulation between the sacrum and the ilium (hip bone) lies the Sacro-Iliac joint. This is a long skinny joint that is well supported by ligaments and musculature. This joint transfers weight between your upper body and legs and has about 2-4 mm of movement in any direction. This area is often a common problem area for back pain. When people tell me that they “threw their back out” it's usually this joint that they are talking about.
The hips are also supported by about 30 muscles that give lend support in movement and stability. There is much here to work with in nearly every family of yoga postures: lunges, forward folds, balance poses, backbends, and even inversions. Balance in the strength and mobility through all movements available at the hip joint allow for health and safe movement through this area.
The hip joint is capable of several types of movement:
- flexion of the hip
- extension of the hip
- abduction of the hip (moving the leg away from center)
- adduction of the hip (moving the leg toward center)
- internal rotation of the hip
- external rotation of the hip
Our July classes will do a deep dive into all of the hip movements with an eye toward maintaining strength and flexibility. Let’s look at a few poses that highlight this area:
*note: the poses shown all exist in the sagittal plane, but there are many more poses that affect the hips that expand into the coronal plane such as Warrior II and Triangle Pose. All actions of the hips described above will be explored in our July classes.
If you still aren't sure if a class at Watershed Wellness is for you, please reach out with any questions. We look forward to seeing you on the mat!
In this episode, I sat down with Amanda to talk about judgment, and non-judgment, in the holistic healthcare environment.
In particular, we examine some of the things that commonly hold people back from getting care due to worries about judgment around:
- Body image, such as body hair, body odor or weight gain
- Social factors, such as identification as gay or trans, or having low income and so being unable to wear “fancy” clothes
- Political and intellectual factors, such as having a very conservative viewpoint when you believe your practitioner to be quite liberal
It's just a quick 20 minutes, and we hope it will provoke questions – check out the form on the main podcast page to share your thoughts.
Believe us – we understand that entering into a yoga studio as a student for the first time can be overwhelming!
Far from feeling relaxed and de-stressed, you might have a hundred questions swirling around in your mind:
- What if you don’t have the right equipment?
- What will everyone else be wearing?
- What if you mess up and everybody sees?
- What if you don’t know what you’re doing?
- What if you're worried about how your body will look as you move around?
- What if you can’t keep up, or if you don’t understand what’s happening?
- What if you have this injury, and that might keep you from doing what everyone else is doing?
That's just the beginning, of course, our personal insecurities and past experience with yoga will both influence the anxieties that crop up.
What it takes for you to get to your first class is a willingness to be vulnerable. To put aside the “what ifs” and have the courage to try something new. One of our hopes in offering yoga in Astoria is to help you
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
Whatever your reasons for wanting give yoga a try, if you can approach your first yoga class in Astoria without trying to be perfect, chances are the class will go a lot better for you than anticipated. You see, we all start somewhere. And not knowing how to do something doesn’t mean that you are a bad person or that something is wrong with you.
What it means is that you don’t know how to do something. And it’s our job to teach you!
Our beginning level class happens weekly so you can come on a consistent basis, for as long as you like, and learn the ropes of what it’s like to move your body in the context of yoga. You WON’T know what you are doing at first, and that’s GREAT! We hope to teach you in a manner that is safe for your body, informative and that allows for lots of questions and self exploration along the way.
Our beginning level classes all include:
- Help on how to sit comfortably – more difficult than it sounds!
- Some introduction to breath work and linking movement with breath – one of the foundations to healthy, lifelong yoga practice.
- Basic yoga postures (called asanas) that will help you gain strength, balance and flexibility – all with plenty of instructions to help you adapt each exercise to your particular body state.
- A solid introduction to yoga movement for those who want to continue on to more advanced classes. We want you will grow as a yoga student for many years with Watershed Wellness!
If you’d like this class to be offered at a different time, let us know what works for you! We’ll do our best to accommodate schedules as we figure out what works for most people in our new community.