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  • Bringing in the New Year with a Cleanse

    By Breea Johnson, MS RD

    It’s the end of the holiday season and most people are already looking towards next year saying to themselves “This will be the year that I _______.” Whatever it is that this next year will be about, cleansing on an emotional, physical and nutritional level is a great way to clear your head and start working towards achieving your goal. Because being in your best health in your best body with your best mind opens you up to achieving anything you set out to accomplish.

    Over the past year I have gotten many requests for us to do our ART Recovery/Prep cleanse as a group cleanse as many women like the peer and emotional support that group meetings provide. So, for the New Year, yoga teacher Jenilyn Gilbert and I are working together to offer a joint nutrition and Kundalini yoga cleanse for 4 weeks starting in January 2011. The nutritional cleanse will be a slightly modified version of our ART Recovery/Prep Cleanse which is sure to move your diet to a more clean and green fertility-friendly place. Every week we will split our time between an interactive nutrition lecture and a yoga class that focuses on cleansing a specific area of our body.

    What you need to know:

    Start the New Year with a special yoga and nutrition combo cleanse! This cleanse will combine nutrition guidelines and Kundalini yoga to focus on restoring digestion, supporting liver detoxification and cleansing both physically and emotionally. Peer support will help you find greater success and even enjoy the process of cleaning up body, mind and spirit!

    This class is not for women currently on a medicated fertility cycle or who are pregnant. No prior yoga experience required. The class fee of $200 includes four combined nutrition and yoga sessions, teas and snacks. Any related nutrition supplements are extra.

    Co-taught by senior PDtM yoga instructor Jenilyn Gilbert and nutritionist Breea Johnson at the Chicago River North location this is the right class to help you meet your goals for health and wellbeing in 2011!

    To sign up or if you have any questions, call Pulling Down the Moon at (312) 321-0004 or visit our web registration page.

  • The Importance of Post-Partum Support

    Although I only have two children I had three post-partum periods – five post- pregnancy periods if you count miscarriages.   As you can tell from these stats I struggled to have kids.  The emotional upheaval that accompanied my miscarriages and the stillbrith was overt.  Because I experienced loss the medical folks involved in my care were direct about providing resources for emotional and physical support.  But

    with my first healthy delivery of a live child – my son Jackson – my experience of the post-partum period was obviously different.  I was excited, motivated and ALIVE.  The lack of sleep that other parents complained about was a nuisance that I shrugged off.  I had a new baby and a new business, Pulling Down the Moon, where we were helping women find this blissful state of motherhood.  I took media interviews from the delivery room, taught fertility yoga at night and worked at PDtM all day with Jack tucked away under my desk.  Depression?  Heck!  I was energized by this post-partum thing!

    But sooner or later the laws of physics catch up.  I think the law goes “for every action in the universe there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Or, perhaps more accurately, “what goes up must come down.”

    In my case the descent began with a tiny sliver of wood that lodged itself in my bare foot while I was teaching yoga.  Although I removed the sliver, within a week the sole of my foot was excruciatingly tender.  A week after that I limped around so pathetically that my business partner Tami Quinn asked me if I was okay.  I wasn’t.  The entire ball of my left foot had turned a vile shade of yellow-green.  I could barely walk without tears coming to my eyes.  Before teaching yoga I’d pop advil and wrap my foot in bandages.

    On Tami’s insistence I visited my doctor, initiated a course of antibiotics that didn’t work and finally ended up with minor foot surgery.  And what was the result?  Well my foot got better.  But something else happened during that time too –  I stopped running around (literally)!  I stayed home from work and stopped teaching while my foot healed.  And during the three-week period I actually sat still  I realized the tremendous, momentous changes that were sweeping through my life.  Jackson was almost four months old when I realized I was mentally exhausted, physically run-down and – yes – depressed.

    I actually think this may be a common phenomenon.  Many of my friends have had similar experiences of major illness and physical breakdown during the post-partum period.  My friend Annie (not her real name) was hospitalized twice with severe mastitis that had become septic.  Another friend experienced tingling and numbness in her limbs and spent a terrifying couple of weeks undergoing testing for multiple sclerosis.  I could add other stories but the theme is the same – the bliss of new motherhood abruptly punctured by a physical crash.

    Could these sorts of symptoms be related to the post-partum period?

    According to Crissy Anderson, Clinical Fellow at The Family Institute of Northwestern University, the answer is yes.

    “While we most often hear about postpartum depression,” says Anderson, “it actually falls under a larger umbrella of postpartum mood disorders. Anxiety, Panic Disorder, OCD and Psychosis (most rare, about one in every one thousand women), while less common than postpartum depression, are all mood disorders that new moms can experience.  Some new moms experience a period of mania, where energy and abilities seem limitless…this will be temporary, though, and is most often followed by a period of depression.”

    Whether or not a new mom develops a diagnosable mood disorder, the majority will experience the “Baby Blues”. These are typically in response to hormonal changes, starting a few days after birth and lasting for several days up to a couple of weeks; symptoms include mood fluctuation, crying, anxiety, insomnia, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.”

    Dr. Jeremy Bloomfield agrees that the stress of the post-partum period can manifest in many different ways.

    “The mind/body connection is real.  When we have stresses and conflicts that we unconsciously avoid in order to minimize anxiety, we still find creative ways to express ourselves.  Often people express themselves through their bodies via physical symptoms and ailments.  And make no mistake, these expressions and illnesses are real.”

    Bloomfield explains that our natural focus is on the beauty and wonder of having children and the “normal stresses” of new parents.  But sleep-deprivation and new schedules are only part of the story.  Parenting also activates conflicts associated with societal and cultural messages, family expectations, changing bodies, and deeply held beliefs about “how life should be.”

    “Parenting can even stir up conflicts that have lain dormant or were resolved in some provisional way.   In Beth’s case it took a splinter to pay attention to the big picture.”

    As I sat crying on my sofa with my foot up I finally admitted that I had to take some time for myself.  I called in help, made an appointment with a therapist, got serious again about yoga and scheduled some acupuncture sessions to help restore my jing (life essence).  Within a few weeks major depression was averted and life-balance was restored.  I often wonder how the first four months of Jackson’s life would have unfolded if I made these changes earlier.  Would I have slowed down, enjoyed more, taken time to cocoon?

    If you find that you are relating to this story, I encourage you to join our new program M-Power:  A 10 Week Mind Body Program for New Moms. It’s easy to take excellent care of yourself when you’re pregnant – but once baby is born, self-care falls to the side as all eyes are on the newest arrival. Nearly 85% of new moms experience “baby blues,” which can be compounded by sleep loss, relationship stresses and hormonal fluctuations. M-Power is a unique program that combines group processing, practices like acupuncture and yoga and expert psychological support to make the first months of motherhood an “M-powering” experience.

    This 10 week program will explore topics including the transition to motherhood, changing relationships, knowing your baby’s cues, as well as a mindfulness component that will help you be more present in these precious days. Interwoven with these discussions will be sessions in group acupuncture, postpartum exercise, yoga/relaxation and nutrition for mood and energy. M-Power will help you take care of YOU while you meet other new moms and form a strong social support system.

    Learn more about this program here.

  • The Heart in Chinese Medicine


    The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) “Heart”, totally different than our Western Science Medicine (WSM) definition, encompasses the mind and the activity of the hypothalamus and pituitary, the glands which control the entire cycle.  Of course, there are a number of TCM organs that play a role together in the healthy functioning of the cycle, but my focus for today is on how special the Heart organ is in TCM and conception.

    In old Chinese medicine texts the description of the Heart is “the master controller” or “the Emperor” of the other organs.  It is interestingly similar to the hypothalamus and pituitary in WSM which often refers to these glands as the master controllers of other glands in the body.   It is imperative that the Heart function properly, in other words that the mind is stable, in order for the hypothalamus and pituitary to work normally.  This then will lead to a healthy ovulatory cycle, and hopefully in the end a conception cycle.

    Acupuncture, herbal therapy, yoga, meditation, reiki, and massage can all help impact a stable mind or healthy Heart in TCM, which can in turn benefit the cycle.  This is only one aspect of one organ system in TCM that participates in a very intricate process with many other organ systems to make a healthy cycle.  If you have any questions about the Heart please feel free to contact me via email or call the office to make an acupuncture appointment.

    Anna Pyne LAc, MSOM, FABORM

  • A Meditation on Candles – To Burn or Not to Burn?

    I have a candle problem.  Votives, tea lights, pillars, travel tins and even lanterns – you light it, I love it.  I collect candles for every mood.  I have frilly girly candles for around my bath tub, tall serious candles for my table and of course romantic candles for my bedroom. I do scented candles, too.  Since smell is intimately connected with the primitive brain, a candle’s aroma can impact emotions without the involvement of  conscious mind.  This is because our sense organs are linked to the limbic system, the primitive part of our brain that governs what we perceive as friend or foe.  Maybe it’s a cave-girl thing but I also find the flickering of a flame – any flame – irresistible.  Strike a match and the safety and security of cave and clan burst into being.

    So, imagine how upset I was to learn that scented candles may actually contribute to fertility and health problems! Unless a candle is scented with 100% essential oils it is likely that the aroma blend contains  a group of compounds called pthalates that can interfere with the function of our reproductive system.  In addition, candles apparently create soot and for that reason they are now under investigation by consumer health groups as a cause of breathing problems and allergies.  There’s a heated debate about soy vs. paraffin wax and which burns cleaner (both make soot, but apparently soy makes white soot, or less soot, or something like that.  The debate is confusing and there’s isn’t a lot of concrete research for either side). If that’s not enough confusion I recently learned that despite regulation against the practice, the wicks of many candles still contain lead.  When burnt, lead wicks may raise the amount of  lead in a living space to unsafe levels.

    If you’re an occasional candle user I don’t think there’s a huge need for concern.  However   I’m not an occasional user of scented candles – I am a heavy user. While I don’t feel the necessity of going cold-turkey, I have implemented some steps to cut down that I can share:

    1.  Burn only candles made with 100% essential oils.  Most “all natural” candles will be made with a soy or beeswax base.  Until a more definitive answer arises, soy seems to be the choice of environmentally conscious candle makers and users.  Look for soft (cotton or cloth) wicks rather than stiff wicks.  The good news/bad news is that this step comes with a built-in deterrent.  Candles made with soy and essentials are expensive!   At an average of $20 a pop for a small pillar candle, these high-end beauties get a promotion to “special occasion only.”

    2.  Switch to essential oils for your everyday aromatherapy needs.  The soot output of a soy-based tea light is less than a bigger candle.  Better yet – use an electric essential oil burner to diffuse aroma throughout your home.

    3.  For that cave-girl desire for flickering fire?  Experiment with electric candles.  Like stevia, no one is going to believe it’s real sugar, but the design of electric candles is getting better every day and we do use them in our centers.  They flicker and glow – and can add mood in a pinch.

    4.  Finally, I have found that Christmas lights aren’t just for the holidays any more.  A string of little Italian lights hung around my bedroom on a special night provides a bit of spice that may even surpass candles.

    So that’s it ladies.  For that anniversary, that special special romantic dinner and for make-up sex, it’s still going to be real flames for me.  For other occasions I think I can find ways to create mood without fire.  Any Martha Stewart types out there have any suggestions for me?

  • Tea…for Two? (We Hope!)

    We love tea. From the earliest conception (pun intended) of Pulling Down the Moon, we knew that we wanted a cozy tea room where people could sit back, relax, and let their troubles dissolve in a cup of hot tea. We soon realized that we could make our tea rooms even more special by giving our guests tea that was delicious, relaxing, and-most importantly-fertility friendly. So, we called on the expertise of our acupuncturists and designed our ARTeas that use the principles of Chinese medicine to promote fertility at different phases of your cycle. Nourish tea is great for the first part of the cycle, Ovulation Support is helpful during ART stimulation or the follicular phase, and Implantation provides uterine support and calming herbs after ovulation, insemination, or embryo transfer.* All of that and fabulous flavor, too! We’d write more about it, but it’s time for a tea break…

    * Th ese statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

  • A Perfect Holiday Gift

    So many people ask us, “What can I do to maximize my fertility?” There’s so much information from magazines, websites, friends, well-meaning relatives-it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed. And in the midst of all that, there may be doctor’s orders, shot schedules, etc., etc., etc. We wanted to create a package that would give clear, straightforward tools to help navigate the fertility journey.  Our book, Fully Fertile , draws on a number of sources and traditions (like nutrition, Chinese medicine, yoga, relaxation techniques, and spiritual awareness) to create a 12-week plan for optimizing fertility. Since exercise, relaxation, and spiritual growth are so important to fertility, we also included our Yoga Practices for Fertility DVD. We tout the benefits of yoga on a regular basis (and if you’re not sure what the benefits are, just ask us and we’ll be happy to tell you…anytime…repeatedly…really!) and we want to give women the opportunity to do a practice that is specifically designed for fertility. Yoga is a great way to get back in touch with your body, calm your mind, and gain a sense of balance. And after the book is read and the yoga practice is done, nothing is more soothing than a hot cup of Nourish tea. We hope these tools will help women feel calm, clear, and-of course-Fully Fertile.

    Click here to view the Fully Fertile package…