Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy

This past August I spent a week in Highlands, NC on top of a mountain learning the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy with a group of amazing women. Though I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I drove atop that mountain, I was excited and anxious to dive into these teachings. The result was an incredible experience and an opportunity to reconnect with myself on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level using the massage tools I learned. I drove home invigorated and ready to share what I had learned.

What is Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy, otherwise referred to as ATMAT?

Though abdominal massage has been practiced for thousands of years by the Maya people of Central America, the development of ATMAT and its use worldwide is still fairly new. Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy is mainly known for helping relieve gynecological and digestive issues, but is also helpful for prostate health. It is a non-invasive, external manipulation of the reproductive and digestive organs. The massage repositions the organs and increases blood, lymph, and qi flow. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective a disruption in the body’s circulation of blood, lymph, and qi results in dis-ease. Dis-ease, being the lack of ease, the lack of comfort, the lack of efficiency in the body. This could range from gas and bloating after eating to more serious illness and disease. Therefore proper circulation is imperative to health and ATMAT is a great way to achieve this.


I am excited to incorporate Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy treatments into my practice. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. My email is austin@austindixonacupuncture.com


Wellness

I was given the task of writing about wellness which I thought was going to be easy enough until I sat down to do it. I mean, you would think someone in my position could put together a few comprehensive sentences about wellness, but I was stumped. I had so many ideas about wellness, but I couldn’t seem to form a single cohesive paragraph. I tried mapping it out with one of those brainstorming webs you learn in grade school. Truth be told, I do that before I write any blog. It usually helps, but this time I found myself confused and no less clear on the subject. My only takeaway is what wellness is not. It isn’t one thing.

There is a saying in Chinese Medicine, “the healthy man is the man that always has something wrong with him”. At first it doesn’t make much sense. We are programmed to think that health is the lack of dis-ease. Not true. Dis-ease, being the lack of ease, the lack of comfort, the lack of efficiency in the body. It is the dis-ease that makes us strive for balance. It reminds us that we are human and have to care for ourselves and for others. Think about all the bad habits dropped or good habits gained when someone experiences dis-ease. Acupuncturists joke that we can always find something wrong with someone. This is part joke, but mostly true. We live in a world where we confuse common and normal all the time. We are taught that gas and bloating after eating is normal or that painful periods are normal. While these things are common they are not normal. We live with all kinds of common symptoms that we don’t address because we think they are normal. Big misconception. Dis-ease is not normal; it is common.

So what is wellness in a society constantly battling dis-ease ranging from common issues to very serious illness? Does the presence of dis-ease take away from our wellness? Can wellness and dis-ease co-exist? Absolutely. It is Yin and Yang. You can’t have one without the other. Without sadness there would be no joy. The same goes for dis-ease and wellness. When we think about wellness as a process, wellness as an outlook, wellness as a willingness to change, then wellness becomes a state of mind. It can affect our approach to dis-ease and greatly improve our ability to transform. It can help us find peace and acceptance right where we are. To me there is no greater gift than this. This is wellness.


Fall 2018

My wise friend, Mischa Decker, recently posted the quote “We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.” I saw this post on Instagram and scribbled it down on a sticky pad next to my computer. I am not one to collect quotes, in fact, I am not one to collect anything at all so it surprised me that I took the time to write it down. Over the last couple weeks I have thought about this quote many times. I was not quite sure why I kept coming back to it then it dawned on me...it is Fall! Now, this took me a second to realize because it is still so hot here in North Carolina, but it is in fact the Fall season. Nature is in the process of changing and dying and shifting to prepare for winter. It is only natural that we humans feel that same pull to shed what is unnecessary, let the parts of us that are holding us back die off and prepare for a more harmonious future.

So. Yeah. Duh. It makes sense. We are part of nature. Nature is making these changes. I guess it is time for us to do the same.

Ok. So how do we do that?

Listen. I am no expert on this but I do know the only way we will ever see improvements in our lives is if we open ourselves up and allow change to come in and rearrange some things. I know it sounds scary and sometimes easier said than done, but if you are willing to put in the work the reward is so worth it. We have to start with our thoughts.

“We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.”

What I find most often holds my patients back from creating real change is the idea that they are who they are (or have what they have) and there is little they can do about it. This kind of definitive thinking holds us back and blocks change from coming in. I often hear patients say things like...

“I am a perfectionist, it’s just how I am.”

“I am type A, I can’t help it.”

“I have XYZ.”

I am sure we can all identify with these types of excuses, I mean, declarations (hint hint). But what happens if we don’t hide behind excuses? What happens if we don’t own these declarations as our present self? What if we change the way we tell our story? What if we start by saying...

“I have had perfectionist tendencies.”

“I have behaved in a type A way.”

“In the past I was like that.”

“I am living with XYZ.”

“I have experienced XYZ.”

By changing a couple words in each sentence we have shared our experience without allowing it to define us. We do not have to be the person we were in the past. Becoming a better version of ourselves means letting go of who we think we are and allowing space for new thoughts and ideas about ourselves. It opens us up for the possibility that we might one day become what we want to be.

What do you want to let go of this Fall season?

Spring

Spring is here! Even if the weather still has random wintery moments (welcome to NC), the energetic shifts that come with the season change are in full effect. So even on days when we reach for a scarf, things are changing. We tend to feel the physical and emotional changes more moving from Winter to Spring than other season changes. Spring’s energy is a bit chaotic and more noticeable than the subtle changes we experience when we transition to other seasons. 

In Chinese Medicine Spring is associated with the Wood element. All the trees start to bloom and grow. We see baby animals and beautiful flowers everywhere. Everything is alive! Everything has a newness and the energy around us feels a little like a young child set free on a new playground. It can be both exhilarating and exhausting. It’s important to recognize the chaos but not get caught up in it. Take time to meditate or just sit quietly. As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer we can easily find ourselves committing to too much, saying yes to everything, resulting in getting run down quickly. Make sure to build in breaks and be conscious of overbooking. Trust me. Say no. Take some breaks and you will be able to do the stuff that really matters without burning out. 

Spring is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder channels. These channels provide the body with a smooth flow of Qi which is essential to balance. Our Liver Qi has a tendency to get stagnant due to stress, overwork, and emotional upset. Needless to say, a lot of us have Liver Qi Stagnation. Liver Qi Stagnation can present as anger/irritability, headaches, stiff or painful joints, tension, excessive sighing, or issues with the eyes just to mention a few. Symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation can be more prominent and persistent during the Spring. It is very important to move Liver Qi before it wreaks havoc on the other channels. Acupuncture, meditation, and regular exercise are great ways to move Liver Qi. Something to keep in mind while choosing an exercise routine for the Spring is that the Wood element governs the tendons and sinews (you may notice a flare up of tendonitis). Focus on exercises that are less rigorous and more stretching and strengthening like yoga, pilates, walking, swimming. Tai Qi and Qigong are also great for this time of year. 

I hope this has been helpful in explaining a few of those Springtime symptoms you may be experiencing. Just like the trees we are always growing. Spring is a great time to refresh your self care routines (or finally create one) and create new health habits. Pro tips: get acupuncture, maintain regular exercise, build in breaks, and enjoy your Spring!

The Holidays

Hey Folks,

The holiday season is here and in full swing. While all of us might not celebrate the holidays this time of the year we can’t help but be affected by them. This is when schedules get filled with social events (both wanted and unwanted), lots of money is spent, food and drink flow, and expectations are high. No matter how much you love or hate the holidays it is filled with extreme highs and lows. So how do we balance out those extremes? I have a couple thoughts….

Stop making the holidays about gifts. There are so many other beautiful ways to spend your energy. Get creative and do things that feel meaningful to you. Examples…

  • volunteer (there are tons of places looking for help….soup kitchen, public school,  tutoring, local non-profits, arts organizations)
  • have an experience instead of a gift (get together and do something!)
  • write holiday cards to folks that don’t get a lot of attention during the holidays (folks in nursing homes, overseas, jail, the hospital, etc...)
  • deliver treats (food, cards, etc)  to folks who have to work on holidays (fire stations, hospitals, police stations, grocery stores….)

Take care of yourself (and I don’t mean by spending money!).

  • go to bed early
  • eat cooked foods and avoid raw, cold foods
  • take salt baths
  • drink extra water
  • avoid sugar to the best of your ability
  • spend time outside even though it is cold
  • exercise (even 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes)
  • say no when you don’t want to do something and don’t feel guilty about it
  • spend time looking inward and reflecting on the year
  • stretch daily (set a timer to remind yourself to take stretch breaks)
  • if you have the means, schedule acupuncture, massage, or a fun class for yourself

Stop feeling guilty about what you eat. Even though I think sugar is kin to the devil, I truly believe the hateful things we say to ourselves are more damaging. It is really hard to avoid eating foods we view as “bad” over the holidays. Instead of beating ourselves up about it let’s focus on moderation (or not… go to town on that pie!) and use gratitude instead of shame. “I am going to eat this cookie that was made for me out of love.” “I am going to eat this cake in celebration of ________.” Our minds are powerful, let’s not let a cookie destroy our well being.

Do your best to stay in the moment. When the To Do List is long and the days are short it can feel overwhelming and stress gets elevated. Try to stay in the moment by making a gratitude list. You can do this with pen and paper as a daily ritual or simply stop in the moment of frustration and mentally list 5 things you are grateful for. I find that a gratitude list can also be helpful when preparing  yourself for visits with challenging family members or co-workers. Since contact is inevitable over the holidays prepare for the interaction by making a list of their positive qualities and/or ways that your life is possible and/or improved because of this person. Even if this list is short (sometimes very, very short) it can be a useful way to put yourself in a good place before entering a stressful social situation.

I hope you found this post helpful in some way and can have a few more relaxing and gratitude filled moments this holiday season. As an acupuncturist I found it important to write something that might help folks through the holiday stress, but I recognize the place of privilege I am writing from and the people of privilege I am writing to when I suggest people go to bed on time and take epsom salt baths. Not everyone can do that. However, I still believe these things are important to implement if you can. I understand I am not touching on true stresses that come from not having enough money, lack of physical or emotional support, devastating illness, or loss.

Your friendly acupuncturist,

austin

Fall

In Chinese Medicine the seasons play an important role in our health and wellbeing. Our body and mind is better when we eat seasonally appropriate food, wear seasonally appropriate clothing, and follow sleeping patterns that correspond to the rising and setting of the sun. There are certain energies or emotions that are connected with the seasons that can often explain why people feel certain ways during a particular season or seem to experience a recurring issue at the same time each year. Since the temperature is finally starting to give us a break here in North Carolina and the leaves are changing, I am going to focus on Fall.

Fall is the season that is connected to the Metal element and Lung and Large Intestine in Chinese Medicine. When the energy of Metal is strong you are able to let go of the things that no longer serve you and hold on to what does. Think about animals storing up for the winter. There is no space for unnecessary items. Fall is the perfect time to reflect on how the year has been progressing, recognize what is working for you and what isn’t, and to begin to let go of what you no longer need.

Sounds easy, right? Ha!

Letting go can feel so overwhelming and borderline impossible to many (most) people. Our new age friends might throw around the phrase “just let it go” as if this was a simple task equivalent to tossing an empty Kombucha bottle into the recycling bin at Whole Foods. Don’t let them fool you. Letting go is hard. Like, real hard. I am not one who shies away from change, but even typing about letting go has my palms sweating. So, let’s get real and talk about what this looks like for those of us who may want to hold on to our Kombucha bottle (I could totally use this for something!).

Now, I am not a therapist and can only speak to my personal experience with letting go of emotional baggage. Since everyone is different and may not identify with my personal struggles I won’t bore you with the details of my own emotional balancing. I will say that mindfulness practices go a long way. Finding the right one for you can be life changing. I also highly recommend therapy. I know some great therapist in Durham if anyone needs a recommendation.

Another technique I firmly believe helps nourish our Metal energy is cleaning out. I truly believe everyone can benefit from de-cluttering, both physically and mentally. Some folks have more clutter than others, but we all have something we can let go of. De-cluttering your home or work space is a great exercise in sorting and examining what you actually need. It can be hard to figure out what we need to let go of emotionally.  Learning to de-clutter and let go of physical things will give you more skills when it comes to doing the same with emotions and mental baggage.

When the energy of the Metal element is not on point it is hard for us to realize we have too much stuff and even harder for us to let go of any of it. So. Let’s start small.

Start with a drawer. Or a closet if you are feeling bold. Or a whole room if you are really ready to get your Metal element in good shape. No matter how much you are trying to tackle make four piles. The first three piles are easy-ish: Keep, Trash, Give Away. Pile four is a little harder. Every time we start going through old stuff we always find something that “Oh my god, I totally forgot about this and I love it so much and I will use it all the time now that I remember it.” These items get their own pile. Since the first three piles are pretty instructive when it comes to the next step (keep, trash, or give away) we will focus on pile four. It is best to keep this pile small. If these items are from a drawer they should fit into a ziplock bag. If these items are from a closet or room try to keep them limited to one box. Give yourself two months to use these items. Mark your calendar and go about your life. When your calendar lets you know that two months have passed, reflect on what you have actually used out of that box. If you have not used anything from your OMG-I-LOVE-THIS box, it is all packed up and ready to be donated. Easy-peasy. If you have used these items then you know that they are truly important to you.

I find it most helpful to do this every couple of months. Once you start cleaning out on the regular it not be so overwhelming and you are giving your Metal energy a little tune up on the regular.

I hope this helps. Please remember that the energy of Fall is different than Summer. You are supposed to slow down, reflect, let go, sleep when you are tired (this means go to bed earlier) and eat warm, nourishing foods.

Happy Fall Everyone!

Summer and the Yin Yang Balance

Am I the only one feeling like there is too much happening and too many places to be right now? Probably not. This feeling is typical for this time of year. There is a lot going on and we want to do all of it. Our busy Spring/Summer schedule can make us feel excited, energized, yet completely overwhelmed and exhausted. You might find yourself overdoing it a bit and craving down time but struggling to find it. This kind of constant activity leaves us feeling burned out and resentful. Though we are responsible for knowing our own limits and not over-committing, we aren’t completely to blame for our packed schedules. Nature plays a role as well.

Chinese Medicine is based around the balance (yin and yang) in nature. We are a part of nature and very much influenced by its changes, sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle. Changes in the seasons affect our physical and emotional balance.  In the Spring, Yin (calm, cooling, slow energy) is moving into Yang (energetic, hot, fast energy) preparing to peak at the height of summer.  It is only normal that as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer our bodies do, too. We start to crave more activity and movement. Plans get made, vacations are set, and the next thing we know we have no down time. We have completely lost our friend, Yin, that we got to know so well over the Winter. We can’t just ignore Yin during the summer months and hope that sleep will balance it all out.  We have to create our own Yin moments. When we balance our Yin and Yang we are at optimal health and all the systems in the body run properly and smoothly.

Here are some ideas for balancing your Yin during the summer….

Get acupuncture. Even if you “don’t have anything wrong”, acupuncture helps balance the body and improve the function of all the systems.

Get a massage. Massage not only feels good but also has many health benefits.

Meditate. You don’t have to sit for hours everyday to meditate. Start with 3 minutes of quiet everyday. And remember, meditating doesn’t mean you sit without having thoughts. That is practically impossible. Meditating is sitting quietly noticing your thoughts. That’s it. If that feels like too much to ask, try focusing on your breath by making the inhale and exhale equal. 3 minutes will fly by.

Exercise in the morning. Exercising is a Yang activity. Our Yang energy is rising in the morning and peaking at noon. When we exercise in the morning we are working with natural energy of the day when neither Yin nor Yang are in full force. After noon Yin begins to increase. The later we get in the day the more present Yin is. Honor the flow and keep your evening activities relaxed and calming. If you want to be a Yin Yang Overachiever you can even plan a noon nap everyday. Countering the most Yang part of the day with the most Yin activity.

Do Tai Chi and/or Qi Gong. Both of these are forms of gentle exercises designed to bring body awareness and superior health and wellness. It is best to do at sunrise and sunset, but you will still get the benefits anytime of day.

Get plenty of sleep! Sleep is when our body replenishes itself. It is a Yin activity. Sleep is extremely important to keeping a good balance.

Don’t drink too much coffee. Coffee gives us a false sense of energy all the while depleting the reserves we do have. I love my cup of coffee, but too much of it will have me running on empty.

Food! It is important to balance Yin and Yang foods with an extra emphasis on the Yin. Most veggies are Yin and cooling, especially the green, leafy ones. Fish and seafood are cooling as well as seaweed. There is a lot of information online about how to eat in alignment with the seasons and Chinese Medicine.  

I hope you have found this helpful. It is hard to live a balanced life these days. Start small and feel proud of the small successes. Good luck everyone!