Change the Message
by Melissa Hinshaw, LMT
A new year is rolling in and many of us will make a resolution or two: loose five pounds, give up dairy, hit the gym more, etc. Most of our resolutions have to do with how we want to look on the outside, both to others and ourselves or maybe how we want to feel physically. These goals we put in place can help us to feel powerful, focused, and in control. In some ways our resolutions have a punitive approach and restrictive feel to them. Often we fizzle out because they carry no real, deep meaning to us. I have an idea. It’s a new year, how about trying things in a gentle and loving way. Let’s change the negative talk that we say to ourselves. Let’s wake up in the morning and say hello to the gorgeous and special person that we are. Let’s appreciate who we are and what we go through on a daily basis: Fertility clinics, shots, meds, kids, husbands, jobs, toilets over flowing, run here, run there, no sleep and the list goes on. When was the last time you truly told your body, and your soul, “Thank you for being so amazing to help me in tackling all that I do.” I’m betting it wasn’t recently!
Not too long ago I challenged myself to do just that. I was inspired by one of my sisters, an 85 year old client who shares stories and wisdom every time I see her. We were talking about the stresses of life, being a woman doing all that we do and enduring all that we endure. I commented that I wished I could do more, be a better mother and a better person and have fewer wrinkles. I was feeling down on myself. She told me that I needed to rise out of myself and look down on the person I was being so critical of. “Look at all she does. She never stops and she never complains. She needs to be loved and appreciated from within. That is where her power will rise from.”
I wasn’t quite sure how to do this, but I knew she was right. I needed to stop picking at myself and being so negative toward my body and my spirit and start loving myself up instead. I started by waking in the morning and looking in the mirror. I decided to change the message from, “Oh god I look like death!” to “Good morning beautiful!” Any critical thoughts that poked their heads were immediately replaced with a compliment or a positive statement about me. I felt a little like a walking affirmation book but the truth is, it was working. I gave my critical voice a vacation and I started to see and feel changes… at least I thought I did. My days were happier. I felt more grounded. I had more energy. I felt pride in myself and what I was doing. I felt more joy and could pass this along to my family. I would even venture to say the wrinkles softened a bit and I saw myself as pretty, instead of drab.
So my sisters, now is the time when I challenge you try a new message in the new year. Shake the negativity and try and see yourself in a new light. Try it for a week and see how you feel. Take a chance on telling your physical vessel and your soul what they mean to you and how grateful you are that they support you every second of every day. Be gentle with yourself and as cheesy as it sounds, love yourself by sending comforting and positive vibes to YOU. This could be one of the best gifts you give yourselves and in turn you can share it with others. You are amazing and beautiful…we all see it, now it’s your turn.
How To Stock Up on Qi For the New Year
by Lisa Meyerson, LAc, MSOM
Happy New Year and welcome to 2017! 2016 was a very wild and unexpected ride for a lot of us with many twists and turns and now here we are, already in 2017. Many of you are probably feeling exhausted after the Holidays as well and could use a very long nap. Perfect timing!
In January, we are at the time of year where the Kidney meridian is most active. The Kidney meridian controls the development of the bones and nourishes the marrow. It also supports the immune system. The emotion of the Kidney meridian is fear, and a variation of fear could be vigilance or apprehension, such as ‘there’s going to be a storm coming, so let’s do the week’s grocery shopping now and make sure we have a shovel, too’ or ‘it’s going to freezing out, so let’s stay in and watch movies snuggled under a blanket’’.
Winter is the time to be most gentle with ourselves, and if we see the weather as an opportunity to slow down, stay in and restore ourselves, we’re good. At this time of year, I often tell my patients to go to bed earlier and sleep later.
As the Nei Jing (one of our Chinese medicine primary texts) states, ‘if you overwork in the Winter, you’ll have tired and withered limbs in the Spring’, and we want the opposite. So recharge, take things slow, take a nap, and you’ll be rested and ready when everything, including you, comes back to life in the Spring.
Ways to cultivate and stock up on energy:
- Make soup with in season vegetables like squash and pomegranates and root vegetables
- Do gentle exercises like tai qi, walking, the wonderful yoga classes at Pulling Down the Moon
- Schedule an acupuncture treatment and/or a massage appointment
- See one of our nutritionists, for a consultation on what the best foods to eat right now are.
- Go to bed earlier and wake up later
- Stay warm and cozy
- Make easy and simple resolutions for the upcoming year
Happy New Year and may all your dreams come true in 2017!!
Cozy Feet, Cozy Uterus
by Anna Pyne, LAc, MSOM, FABORM
Needling the acupuncture points according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is the most potent way to stimulate them for healing and strengthening the reproductive system. However there are numerous other ways in which patients can tonify these particular points on their own to help facilitate the acupuncture therapy they are already receiving.
Located all along the feet and ankles exists a plethora of acupuncture points which have a connection to the uterus and ovaries. I am constantly advising my patients especially in subzero weather to protect these points by wearing socks. I typically recommend light cotton socks, but wool can also be used depending upon how hot or cold that particular person runs. By doing so, you are protecting the integrity and energy of the reproductive system.
Another way I advise patients to “treat” these points along the feet and ankles is by taking hot or warm foot soaks. These can be as fancy or simple as the patient desires or has time for. Warm or hot water alone totally suffices and is all that is required. For those that have the time, adding a few drops of our oils that we sell especially the Nourish the Blood essential oil is ideal. This particular oil helps supplement blood which is typically deficient in our fertility patients. We even have bath salts that can be purchased and used in conjunction with the oil in the warm foot bath. This can be done daily if possible. Another positive result is its stress relieving when you make it part of your routine, it forces you to relax as it serves as a mini spa session in the comfort of your own home.
by Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
As we ring in the New Year, many will be making New Year’s resolutions about eating healthier, losing weight, and exercising more. These are all important endeavors, but what about how you eat? We focus so much attention on what to eat and what not to eat, but how you eat can be just as important.
We tend to be busy and rush through our meals or eat while distractedly watching TV, surfing the web, or working. This often means we don’t truly experience or enjoy our meals, which may leave us looking for something more to eat. When we’re eating mindfully, we often are more satisfied with less food and can better tune into our body’s hunger and fullness cues. Here are a few tips to get you started with mindful eating:
1. Turn off the TV. Put away your book, phone, laptop, or tablet, and truly experience your food. Most of us have had the experience of sitting in front of the TV with a bowl of chips or popcorn only to look down and find the bowl empty. We’re surprised, because we were so absorbed in the movie or show that we weren’t paying attention to how much we were eating. Since we didn’t adequately experience the chips or the popcorn, we usually want to go back for more. Practice eating your meals at the table without distractions, and see how it can transform your eating experience.
2. Slow down. Start out by trying to stretch your meals out to take at least 20 minutes. This can be especially challenging when we’re really or feel we have things to do, but eating slowing down can also help us chew our food better, experience our food more fully, and be in a more relaxed state for optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients. Slowing down also helps our brain get the signal that our stomach is full, so that we are less likely to overeat.
3. Put your fork down and pause at least once halfway through eating the food on your plate. This can be easier said than done, but this pause allows our food to settle, slows us down, and allows us to tune in to how our body is feeling and the hunger and fullness signals that are bodies are providing. We often get out of touch with these signals, instead using external cues like the amount of food on our plate, to tell us when to stop eating. It takes practice, but with time we can better tune into our hunger and satiety and start honoring those cues instead of simply finishing all the food on our plate.
My Rainbow Baby, Jack
By Anna Pyne, LAc MSOM FABORM
It is with such gratitude in my heart and soul that I can share with you, that I delivered Jack Fitzgerald Pyne on July 22nd 2016. He was born at 9 lbs 9 oz and 22 inches long, with a full head of thick black hair. We are so blessed to have him, our third child. His sisters Lily 5 years old and Claire 3 years old have so much fun doting on him and entertaining him. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by all this love. It has certainly enhanced my motivation in helping others fulfill their dreams of becoming a parent too. It feels wonderful to be back at Pulling Down the Moon as an acupuncturist/herbalist.
Last year June ’15 my husband and I had our first (and thankfully only) miscarriage in the first trimester. It was devastating. I had a difficult time moving forward but eventually did with some help. Of course being an acupuncturist I was giving myself acupuncture treatments weekly to twice a week directly after our loss, and continued throughout my pregnancy with Jack. I was also taking Chinese herbs to enhance the acupuncture therapy for improving fertility. The formulas would vary depending upon where I was at in my cycle. I utilized our unique massage services at Pulling Down the Moon. I started out with our Cleanse the Body massage and moved forward from there with the rest of our Fertility Enhancing Massages (FEM protocol). There is a specific massage for every stage of the cycle. Nutritionally I was taking all of our recommended egg quality supplements, except for the Melatonin as my sleep was fine. Luckily it only took two cycles before we conceived again using this regimen. I was so nervous during the entire first trimester, which was a new feeling for me as I did not have any difficulty with my girls. I kept up with the acupuncture, herbs, massage, and nutrition throughout the entire pregnancy which helped contribute to the delivery of our healthy baby boy Jack.
By Christine Davis, LAc., MSOM
The process of struggling to achieve something you really want can take a toll on you! If you have been trying to conceive for some time, maybe a lot of time, it is hard to see the forest from the trees and remain hopeful in spite of hardships, struggles and losses. It can be difficult to dig deep into your spirit to find the well of hope that keeps you going. Here are some ideas to help keep your spirit vibrant and ready to keep moving forward:
- STOP! Take time to breathe, focus, meditate, pray – whatever will work best for you to find that place of peace and serenity that your soul needs. Try building an activity like this into your daily schedule. It is as important as eating a good diet and getting enough rest and exercise! Try guided meditations or a yoga class (Pulling Down the Moon offers fertility-focused classes that include these techniques). It is important to note that this time should not always focus on reflecting or trying to solve problems. Instead, it is a time to recharge your batteries, restore your ability to center yourself, and equip yourself with the emotional and energetic tools to carry on.
- Think about something else! Sometimes concentrating on work, family, friends, hobbies, fun stuff, etc. can help to keep things in perspective and keep us going. Maybe take up a new class or hobby. Have you ever tried flamenco dancing? Stained glass making? Want to learn more about astronomy? Do it! Changing your focus for part of each day helps to make you feel more balanced and joyful.
- Let go of trying to control. Even with all the numbers, data, and testing, it is easy to feel that much is out of your control when you are trying to conceive. There are just so many factors at play. Instead of filling your mind with all the potential scenarios based on your numbers, try to trust that you are doing everything you can (even when you need to be lazy or relaxed!) to make this happen. You have chosen a great team of experts to be on your side, you have friends or family members who are rooting for your success, and you are involved and present in the process when you need to be. You are taking the medications, timing your cycle, eating the right foods (see our Nutritionist if you feel you need help making the right choices), etc. It is impossible to control every piece yourself. Trust and take comfort that you ARE doing what you can.
- Give negativity the boot! Do you have people or things in your life that are bringing you down? Take some time to detach from the things that aren’t helping you be your best self. Part of Chinese Medicine, along with acupuncture and herbs, is Chinese geomancy or feng shui . This is the idea that a harmonious living and working environment leads to good health. Get rid of clutter from your home, closets, car, and workspace like it’s your job! Surround yourself with colors, images, sounds and smells that make you feel confident and happy. Anything else is holding you back from feeling joyful and may be worsening stress and poor health. Are there relationships that are toxic in your life? Maybe jettison those that aren’t necessary and distance yourself from the ones you cannot completely remove. There will always be some people or situations that are unpleasant that you must confront, but make sure to keep your boundaries up. Remember Dirty Dancing ? “Here’s my dance space, that’s yours… Let’s Cha-Cha!” Concentrate on relationships that bring joy, inspiration, and fun to your life. Make an effort to be kind, compassionate and considerate of others.
- Be grateful. This is probably the hardest one. When we have experienced frustration, loss and heartache it is so painful to see those around us who all seem to be having success with ease. First, understand that in this world where we are tormented by social media “perfect lives,” celebrity worship, and billboards/magazines/emails that tell us if we have more we will be happy, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that NO ONE’S journey is perfect and easy. Turn away from social media and regular media that is leading you to believe that things are always supposed to be happy and ideal. We learn from struggle. We grow from challenge. Embrace your own journey and live your best life. This includes giving yourself slack, allowing yourself to feel your emotions fully so that you can move past them, and really concentrating on gratitude as the path.
I love this quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Allow yourself to cry. Allow yourself to be angry and frustrated. And then, allow yourself to let these feelings subside and find the light
Eating Seasonally: Benefits of Eating Root Vegetables
By Shawna Schwalb, MS, LDN
The leaves are stunning. Red, gold, orange, maroon piles crunch under your feet as you walk in the fall in Chicago. Underneath the leaves, the earth is growing colder and many animals and plants are finding a new place to find home. Root vegetables grow during this cooler season. Eating in season is best for your system. Root vegetables keep you grounded as they are grown underground. You absorb this energy from them as they settle your being and satisfy your sweet tooth. Before people ate refined sugar, they ate naturally sweet root vegetables to satisfy their sweet cravings.
Yams, beets, parsnips, carrots, onions, beets, winter squashes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, yuca, kohlrabi, garlic, celery root, horseradish, daikon, red radishes, burdock, turmeric, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, maca root and ginger are some of the wonderful varieties of root vegetables that are widely available this time of year. Root vegetables tend to be sweeter and may help with digestion and provide your body with a steady supply of energy. Unlike sugar, root vegetables help you stay focused since they are digested more slowly than sugar and help you avoid the blood sugar highs and lows that you get with sugar. Adding in sweet root vegetables is a great way to crowd out less healthy foods.
Because root vegetables grow underground, they absorb the beneficial nutrients from the soil. Ginger and turmeric may help with nausea and reduce inflammation. Maca root may support the immune system and may help with fertility in men and women by increasing energy and providing vital nutrients. Maca is also source of iron and iodine.
Eating at least 5 servings a day of fresh fruits and vegetables is important all the time, but especially important when trying to conceive. Try steaming, roasting and stir-frying these vegetables. They can also be simmered and pureed to create a soup, or you can simply eat them raw or grated into a salad. Have fun and enjoy eating seasonably for fall and winter as you reap all the benefits.
Hands On Women’s Wisdom: Thankful
By Meredith Nathan
November is a month that draws our focus towards thankfulness. It is
a time to reflect on what we are grateful for, and to pause and
appreciate things we may have taken for granted. This month I’m
thankful for many things, but especially for two visionary women who
created an integrated center for fertility over 13 years ago. I have
always appreciated Pulling Down the Moon as a place to work, a place
to innovate fertility enhancing techniques, a place to meet incredible
women, and hopefully play a role in their journey to becoming mothers.
But this past year I got to experience Pulling Down the Moon not just
as an employee, but as a patient.
Fertility challenges run in my family. My mother had severe
endometriosis, and suffered through several miscarriages and surgeries
before having my brother and I. So it wasn’t a big shock when I
discovered at 27 that I had large endometriomas, blood-filled cysts on
my ovaries, that created daily bouts of pain. The birth control pill
kept these cysts in check, but didn’t cure them – in fact, 6 years
later as my husband and I were trying to start a family, the cysts
still had not budged (other than occasionally rupturing and growing
back again). Add to this very inconsistent cycles, and I knew I
likely had my own fertility journey ahead…
After a few months of trying, my husband and I decided I should start
acupuncture to help my body get into balance. Through acupuncture and
herbal blends, my cycles normalized over the course of several months.
I now had 25-27 day cycles (previously my cycles could be as short as
11 days). Meanwhile, I received a nutrition consult and started a
detox. After this, I incorporated some general dietary shifts, a
vitamin protocol, and a pituitary supplement.
A year after we’d started trying, I had an ultrasound and bloodwork
done. I was elated with the results! The cysts, which had stubbornly
plagued me for what was now 7 years, were completely gone! My
bloodwork came back perfect, and I was told I had a ‘model uterus’! I
was thrilled with my progress, and thought that certainly now we would
get pregnant without a hitch! I incorporated timing-specific
Fertility Enhancing Massage month after month. And yet several months
later, I was still having tearful mornings and negative pregnancy
Finally we sent my husband in to be checked out. It may sound silly
that we waited this long to see what was happening on his side of the
equation, especially since I work in fertility. But he is such a
robust, healthy person, and since I knew I had a host of fertility
issues, we both somehow assumed the problem was only on my end. But
sure enough, his results came back with room for improvement: though
he got an A+ for quantity, his motility and normality were more like a
C-. Without delay, we got him in with our acupuncturists and
nutritionists, shifted his diet, changed a few lifestyle factors, and
incorporated supplements and herbs into his diet.
Meanwhile, I abandoned my high intensity workout regime in favor of
PDtM’s yoga programs during my two week wait (and eventually during my
whole cycle), after experiencing what may have been a chemical
pregnancy…I felt safer doing these restorative, gentle poses, versus
workouts that may have been overly-stimulating for my body and uterus.
After giving my husband’s body a month to balance, we started
re-incorporating timing-specific Fertility Enhancing Massage for both
me and him.
19 months from the time we started trying for a baby, I was several
days late. At this point, I was hesitant to even take a pregnancy
test…I’d seen so many “Not Pregnant”s at this point, and didn’t want
to get my hopes up. Lying in bed, I debated whether I would take one
or not, and finally decided I would. As the minutes ticked by, I
found myself getting more and more hopeful, even though I tried not to
be. Finally it was time to check the results. I looked dumbfounded
at the test that said something I’d never seen it say before:
This November I am thankful for many things. Unlike when my mother
was attempting pregnancy, we have so many tools now to help us achieve
our goals of starting families. There are so many advances in
Assisted Reproductive Technology, and Reproductive Endocrinologists
can achieve results that decades ago could only be imagined. My
husband and I prayerfully considered these options after our first
year of trying, but never felt like we were being moved in those
directions. With a little (and then a lot of) patience, and with
access to so many incredible tools, we immersed ourselves in every
service Pulling Down the Moon and the world of holistic medicine had
to offer for both husband and wife. Fourteen years ago the concept of
a center for integrative care for fertility (to my knowledge) didn’t
exist. But two visionary women, Beth Heller and Tami Quinn, took
their own experiences, their pain and loss, and their successes, and
created a space that offered something they never had during their
fertility struggles: a multi-disciplinary center for fertility,
incorporating the best of what holistic therapies could provide for
couples trying to conceive naturally or through ART.
Because of their vision, women like me have so many tools and
resources to accomplish our most urgent, important, and emotional
goal. And the results of their vision never cease to amaze me…the
results take my breath away.
This Fertility Warrior’s Best Weapon: Breath
An important mentor during my fertility journey once used the phrase “Fertility Rambo,” referring to the women who after suffering loss put themselves right back out there on the battlefield; raw, but willing to keep fighting. This idea of being a warrior on the battlefield of infertility has really stuck with me. I have found that if I can breathe, I can keep going.
I’ve been practicing yoga for almost 10 years and I have always struggled with my breath. I attended many momentum-driven vinyasa flow classes that are meant to “link breath with movement,” but I could not inhale into Warrior II (or UpDog or any other pose) for the life of me. I would move into a pose and then pause for the breath, before holding my breath again in order to move into the next pose. This is the opposite of relaxing for the nervous system and this breathholding left me feeling off balance. One of the most valuable lessons that I have learned over this past year, by far the most challenging year of my fertility journey and possibly my life thus far, is how to breathe through these moments of struggle.
It sounds too simple when life is so complex, right? But it works- I promise. The best way I can describe the results are a calming and untangling of my mind. It gives me a moment to recoup before reacting to whatever triggered my need to take a breath. Breathing through tough yoga poses is such a compelling lesson on and off the mat- you can breathe through anything. It started on my mat, but works just as well in the real world, especially out on the battlefield of infertility. I am now aware of my natural tendency to hold my breath and how depleted, agitated, and off balance that makes me feel. As soon as I feel this coming on, whether triggered by a challenging yoga pose or an unexpected or unwanted fertility event, I tell myself to take a deep breath. And every time I am reminded of how powerful a deep breath can be. It’s becoming more natural, but I still have to remind myself occasionally to stop and breathe and that is okay because life is about growth. Some days it is easier to say than others, but I truly believe that navigating the wild rollercoaster of the fertility journey is making us stronger with each twist and turn. So, I encourage all of my fellow fertility warriors to pause and take a breath when you feel the struggle coming on. This crisp autumn air will serve as a beautiful reminder of the power of your breath.
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