Understanding puberty in girls from a TCM perspective

We can all remember the struggles of our teenage years; problems such as acne, the start of our periods, breasts forming, getting used to wearing bras, peer pressure, increasing levels of school work and home work, not being able to get out of bed in the mornings.

As a parent, I want my own daughters to have an easier time than I did. As a therapist, I am more aware of the strains put upon children and teenagers, and how this can effect them physically, psychologically and emotionally.

In my previous blog post, I explained in general terms about our Kidney energy being responsible for our growth and development, and reproductive health. If we experience a painful puberty it is likely that we will experience a more difficult menopause. We also want to optimise fertility, pregnancy and childbirth in between these two milestones, as well as general health and wellness, and they are all interlinked.

The following behaviours can have a significant impact on a young woman’s health:

  1. Early sexual activity. This can have an impact on uterine health at such a vulnerable time, causing imbalances such as blood stasis.
  2. Excessive physical work and exercise, During puberty, this may cause weakness and deficiency in the developing body (Spleen and Kidney), which in turn can lead to stagnation. Of course this depends on the individual constitution, but it is important to be aware of as a parent.
  3. Exposure to external cold. Young women are vulnerable to invasion of external cold, particularly during puberty. Social pressure to wear clothes that reveal the lower back and abdomen, going out without a coat and scarf, prioritising their physical appearance over their well-being can leave them prone to being attacked by the external pathogen of cold. If cold attacks the uterus, it will contract and cause stagnation.
  4. The use of tampons blocks the natural downward flow of blood and can cause stagnation. There are also many other health risks associated with tampons including the exposure to environmental oestrogens which is covered in a different blog post.
  5. Emotional stress and anxiety will have a massive impact on energy levels, depleting the Kidneys and creating excess Heart energy. If it is held onto then this can cause stagnation.

Taking care during this sensitive time will have a massive impact on our young women’s health as they get older. Common problems such as period pain, irregular periods, heavy/scanty periods, infertility, endometriosis, anxiety and depression, fatigue can all be improved through gentle communication, education and sensitivity around these issues at a young age.

If you are interested in receiving some acupuncture or reflexology sessions please contact me directly for an initial chat.

Jackie Marsden is a Reflexologist, Acupuncturist and Foot Reading Practitioner, based at Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, Preston, PR4. She is a full member of the Association of Reflexologists.

[Book Review #1] Everything You Need You Have

I recently discovered this little gem of a book while browsing the local library.

Gerad Kite’s Everything You Need You Have: How to be at home in your self is such an easy read, yet so powerful in places with little nuggets to take away and use on a daily basis. It’s simplicity is what makes it so special.

There is also an alignment with the Five Element Theory which also interested me after studying and qualifying in Clinical Acupuncture last year. The natural movements of life according to the tangible elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water (see summary below).

So, I invite you to join me “At Home” and you will be at home in your self. Because, what we’re looking for simply isn’t out there – it is within. We believe that we have to be busy, doing stuff, achieving things, in order to be successful. But really there is no such thing as success – these are just events playing out, finding their way, following natural law.

We have ended up living almost exclusively “in the head”. Standing in the place of “I think” limits us in time and space and for many people great suffering and pain. We have forgotten how to retreat from our thinking minds and take pleasure in the bliss of simply being alive – to “be”; and to know that one’s existence is so much more than mere sequence of events that plays out before us, confirming that we’re “somebody” with a “life”. I find this so humbling and so profound, and also very useful.

It is useful because, when one gets caught up in life’s day to day stresses, or worries, or emotional burdens, it is liberating to retreat back to “Home” (although we never really left) and observe what we are thinking, feeling, experiencing. This is the true essence of life. It is the awareness that what we are going through is simply not real: it is transient and changeable. The quality of Home is peaceful and permanent.

As a reflexologist, offering clients the opportunity to simply relax and enjoy the power of touch is where a lot of healing can take place. And surely this is offering or opening up a path towards “Home”? Switching off the mind and focusing on “the now”. For the past and the future are there by virtue of memory and fantasy – courtesy of the mind – and neither are real in “the now”.

Gerad gives the reader insights, exercises, tools of  how to re-discover Home within your self, and also examples of clients he has helped throughout his career.

Enlightenment is beyond mundane tasks, but it is found within them.

Short Summary of The Law of Five Elements

Gerad states “The unique balance of the five elements that create and maintain you are the gift of your life. This is the foundation and reality of who you are. You are  both a unique form and an integral part of Univeral intelligence, flow and evolution.”

Wood (Liver and Gall Bladder)

  • Get up and grow
  • Renewal
  • Timidity to belligerence
  • Perspective

Fire (Heart)

  • Joy of “Being”
  • Be open to things and experience them from Love
  • Joy emerges from the compassion of Home
  • Easy forgiveness
  • Healthy boundaries (and knowing these)

Earth (Spleen and Stomach)

  • Satisfaction
  • Natural motion “give and take”
  • Identify our needs
  • Integrity
  • Reciprocity, sharing and caring, giving and receiving

Metal (Lung and Large Intestine)

  • Gives the whole cycle of life its value
  • Importance of letting go of all attachments
  • Understand the impermanence of our outer life
  • Root in the quality of the present moment
  • Self value and worth

Water (Kidney and Bladder)

  • This is the base element: death, regeneration and survival
  • The closest we can get to Home
  • The origin of all life
  • Simplicity of Being
  • Stores our essential nature
  • Primitive and True
  • Who are you?

My Healthy Kitchen

If you’ve been following me on Instagram or Twitter you will have seen me posting some beautifully tasty looking meals and snacks from my own kitchen. Many (not all) of these foods are recipes inspired by Ella Mills (Woodward) from her books and blog “Deliciously Ella”.

polenta

Ella’s story is pretty amazing. In a nutshell, she has recovered and healed herself from a rare disease affecting the nervous system known as Postural Tachycardia Syndrome which had her bed bound for around 16 hours a day at the young age of 19. After  months of suffering and a myriad of steroids and medication (which also came with their own side effects) Ella decided to do her own research and finally decided to become a gluten-free vegan and heal herself through nutrition. This journey has inspired her to get cooking, discover mew foods and experiment in the kitchen, which is where her blog started.

coconut_slab

Ella’s recipes have been enlightening for me. They have opened up a door in my kitchen to combat my own sugar addiction through making delicious healthy but sweet snacks that actually satiate rather than driving the cravings even further. I’ve also learned new cooking techniques and flavour combinations which form a basis of my knowledge for my own creations and adaptations. A huge revelation also is that cooking in this way is super quick!

bolognaise

What is even more exciting is that Ella has been collaborating with Neal’s Yard Remedies to create her very own facial wash and moisturiser! A fusion of rose, cucumber and lime suitable for all skin types. If you would like a sample please get in touch! I’m also taking pre-orders for the eagerly anticipated launch on 4th August 2016. Why not book a party with me and let me bring the new products to you and your friends?

If you’re interested in what I’ve been cooking recently follow my blog for the forthcoming recipes. In the mean time why not check out Deliciously Ella’s Superfood Brownies made with our Organic Greens Complex and our Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. I’ve made these a few times and they taste amazing.

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist, promoter of healthy living and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

Growyourbusiness

[Yoga Series #5] Discipline. Are you worth it?

Some days I find it hard to come to the mat. I will divert and do all manner of jobs and tasks to avoid it. To get onto the mat every day takes discipline.

But isn’t it the same with anything in life? To meet the challenge and to move forward we have to be disciplined. Whether you want to build a business, learn a new skill, get better at something, lose weight, meet a target or achieve a goal: discipline is involved. We can’t just coast our way through life and expect things to drop into our laps.

ID-100423155Bearing in mind I am still a fairly new yogi: yoga is teaching me about practice. The more I practice the more I am understanding my body. The more I understand the more I want to learn, and the more I want to discover. Parallels to my reflexology journey. You can’t be a good reflexologist unless you practice, no matter how much reading and theory you learn.

The more challenging poses are becoming less of a dread and more of a journey of revelation. The poses I can’t get into fully are less of a brick wall and more of an acceptance of where I am at this moment. I modify to suit me at this time and that is perfectly OK (wow did I just say that?)

But all of this comes from discipline. Being disciplined to practice every day is hard. But look at the rewards. I feel great during and afterwards. Better than if I don’t practice. And if I don’t practice there is always the guilt, the feeling of letting myself down, the weakness to come and consume me. Because I know that I am worth more.

Once the discipline sets in, whatever you are doing becomes less of a “chore” and more of a good habit. Something you just do because that’s what you do and who you are. Good habits are difficult to form. That’s where discipline comes in. But I know that I am worth it and that’s what keeps me motivated.

Image courtesy of kdshutterman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist, promoter of healthy living and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

Growyourbusiness

[Yoga Series #3] Engage the Pelvic Floor for Spinal Health

When we talk about pelvic floor muscles it is usually relating to urinary and sexual health, pregnancy or post-partum issues and problems. But actually the pelvic floor is also fundamental to our spinal health.

ID-100197696The deepest muscles of the pelvic diaphragm run from front to back (pubic joint to coccyx). The more superficial layers are those including the anal and urethral sphincters. During yoga the focus should be on engaging the deeper fibres which encourage an upward motion of energy, permitting the diaphragm to lift the base of the rib cage forward.

I have a tendency to over extend my lumbar spine and stick out my bottom: this isn’t good for spinal health, and my yoga journey is now showing me this.

To be able to flex the lumbar spine, the psoas, abs and pelvic floor must concentrically contract. So my natural tendency to over-extend, in combination with attempting postures of deep lumbar-flexion (for example a standing or seated forward bend) without engaging the core muscles properly will lead to pain. Combine this with other personal issues such as emotional stress and poor posture during work (treatments, sitting at desk, driving) has led to much discomfort.

In yoga there are three main diaphragms (pelvic, respiratory and vocal) which come together in movements that are coordinated with inhaling and exhaling. These coordinated actions of the diaphragms (in yoga these are known as “bandhas”) create more stability in the body, protecting it from injury by redistributing mechanical stress.

For example, when performing a forward bend, if the thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities are not supported with the breath, then there is no single centre of gravity. This puts extreme pressure on the posterior spinal muscles with a pivotal point in the lumbo-sacral junction, which is vulnerable to damage (exactly where my back pain has been!)

Have you ever reached or bent over to do something and automatically held your breath? The body does this to try and protect our spinal structures.

Actively employing the breath which engages all three diaphragms including the all important pelvic floor muscles, offers the spinal column complete support during a forward bend, by centering gravity in the pelvis, legs and feet, and allowing the spine to relax and allow in space. Remember – build the foundation! This is explained beautifully in [1].

In understanding this during the yoga practice, as well as daily activities, I have managed to reduce my lower back pain considerably. As always, stepping onto the yoga mat takes us on a journey inside the body.

For some fabulous diagrams of the pelvic floor muscles see [2].

[1] Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews

[2] http://www.dailybandha.com/2015/05/the-pelvic-floor.html

Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist, promoter of healthy living and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

Growyourbusiness

[Yoga series #2] Feet are our Foundation

Following on from my previous blog in this yoga series, I’m continuing with feet.

Our feet are a masterpiece of natural engineering, however this masterpiece is not used to its full advantage in our civilised world. Shoes and flat, paved surfaces block nature’s proprioception and allow the feet to be indifferent to the environment and the surroundings.

ID-100162292The less we use our feet the weaker the detailed musculature become, and the weaker the muscles then more pressure is placed on the plantar fascia, causing heel spurs and plantar fasciitis.

The practise of yoga is carried out in bare feet. This act alone reconnects us to the earth beneath us, and makes us pay attention to restoring the strength and flexibility of the foot and the lower leg. [1]

Each foot has 3 main arches: from the heel to the distal end of the first metatarsal (base of big toe), from the heel to the distal end of the fifth metatarsal (base of little toe) and the line connecting the distal ends of the first and fifth metatarsal. This creates a triangle of support for each foot. There is also a 4th arch which goes across the tarsal bones.

When we are standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), the arches of the feet are engaged and connecting with the support of the pelvic floor, lower abdomen, rib cage, cervical spine and the crown of the head. [1] The fundamental lessons you learn from the standing postures can illuminate the practice of other asanasas and poses. [1]

So my advice is to pay attention to your foundation: your feet. Take off your shoes and reconnect with the earth and the environment. Take time to stand quietly in Tadasana, focusing on your feet, how they feel, how your weight shifts and balances. Try “lifting” your arches and see how this ripples up through the rest of your body, improving posture and balance.

Once your foundation is improved, it is much easier to put the rest of your house in order. [1]

Read my previous blog in this series [Yoga Series #1] Yoga for Foot Health.

[1] Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews.

Image courtesy of Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Please note that I a not a yoga instructor.

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

Growyourbusiness

I sponsor a sister

Since 1993, Women for Women International has helped nearly 429,000 marginalised women in countries affected by war and conflict. They directly work with women in 8 countries, offering support, tools, and access to life-changing skills to move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency.

Women for Women International bring women together in a safe space to learn life, business, and vocational skills.  Once enrolled, each woman receives a monthly stipend – a vital support that enables her to participate.

Women increase their ability to earn an income with new skills that are in demand. They learn about their legal rights, and they become knowledgeable about health and nutrition.

Last September I decided to sponsor a sister via Women for Women International after learning about the project at the NYROrganic Autumn conference. I donate £22 per month which helps my “sister” receive intensive training for the essential job skills she needs to earn an income and support her family:

  • Many sisters start their own businesses to earn an income, even banding together with other graduates to form co-ops. Most graduates are able to move beyond extreme poverty.
  • My sister is learning about her real value and rights as a citizen, and can become a leader for other struggling women in her community.
  • My money helps provide a monthly stipend that enables her to pay for basic necessities like nutritious food and clean water for herself and her family, so she can focus on recovering and learning new skills.
  • I help provide a safe place for my sister, where she is part of a network of like-minded women, and better able to recover from the horrors of war and rebuild her life.

My sister’s name is Claudette from Rwanda. She is 35 and a widow with 5 children, 4 boys and 1 girl. She is a farmer and has joined Women for Women International to meet fellow women and learn how to improve the standard of living for herself and her family. She will graduate this August.

Women for Women International is not just about hand-outs. No, this is about providing real and sustainable change through learning, education, training and community. It is about providing tools and resources these women need to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency. This ultimately leads to more stable and peaceful societies now and for the future.

In conjunction with #InternationalWomensDay today on 8th March 2016, 10% of any purchase via my NYROrganic shop will be donated directly to Women for Women International.

#peoplehelpingpeople

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.