exercise, health, martial arts, mental health, motivational

How to fit exercise into a busy life

Sarah Dad cycling 2013
My Dad and I after finishing the Brisbane to Ipswich charity ride this year.

I was asked to prepare a guest blog for the Endeavour College of Natural Health regarding how I fit exercise into my life around my many commitments. (Aren’t we all busy these days?)

We know that exercise (in its many forms) has a multitude of benefits for our bodies including improving cardiovascular health, maintaining a healthy weight, easing some types of pain, balancing blood sugar and enhancing our mental health. We simply cannot afford to miss a daily dose.

If you struggle finding ways to get some daily exercise in that:

  1. fits into your schedule and around your commitments
  2. is low cost
  3. is enjoyable

then click on this link which will take you to my Wellspring guest post (Workouts the experts swear by: fitness secrets from an acupuncturist) to get some ideas on how you can get exercise into your life… and feel so much better for it!

I am currently overcoming an injury (with herbs, acupuncture, massage, shockwave therapy and rehab exercises aplenty) but will be right back to my schedule as soon as possible – I miss it!

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, emotional health, herbal medicine, mental health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine for the broken heart

I’ve seen many a brokenhearted patient in my clinic. Traditional Chinese Medicine has much to offer in helping you through this tough time.

I have recently been asked to write on the topic for the Endeavour College of Natural Health’s Wellspring Blog.

Check out five heart-healing tips in Mending a broken heart with Traditional Chinese Medicine.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

exercise, martial arts

Why should you take up a martial art?

Australian Women’s Fitness magazine is this month (August 2013 issue) promoting martial arts to women.

They questioned women from a variety of martial arts including:

  • Taekwondo
  • Muay Thai
  • Aikido
  • Karate
  • Kendo
  • Krav Maga

You can read a little about my karate journey in the article. (Although, I need to clear up for those who know what this means – it was actually Wado Ryu karate I trained in when I was 8 years old, not Goju Ryu which I currently train in.)

I often recommend the martial arts as a form of physical and mental exercise for my patients. It’s great for anyone who doesn’t like mundane training in a gym, and for people who don’t excel at team sports, and also for people who need a push along with their exercise. It’s great for perfectionists and the busy minded, or those who need more focus, it brings out some fighting spirit in the timid and can pacify those on the agitated side.

It is also just damn good fun.

The martial arts (and they vary dramatically between styles – so try a few to find the right fit for you) offer cardiovascular, conditioning and flexibility training. Yes, you get fit. And training is adapted for your level, so it doesn’t matter how fit, flexible or strong you are when you start. You also get a workout for the mind – no room for dwelling on work problems while training!

So, if you are looking for a new exercise regime, social activity or hobby, why not try a martial art? But be careful, training is addictive!

Here‘s what my experience of karate training in Japan is like.

And here is my experience of the relationship between karate training and practicing acupuncture.

Do you already train in a martial art? What does it do for you?

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

exercise, martial arts

Karate training in Japan

My club training in Japan
My club training in Japan

It’s almost one year since I boarded a plane destined for Japan and two weeks of intensive karate training and testing.  Some of my karate friends from around the world are set to take the trip again in around a month’s time. It occurred to me that while I have shared the Japanese medicine side of the trip, I’ve never written about my karate experience there.

I train in Goju Ryu karate, one of four traditional styles of karate originally from Okinawa. The style “Goju” means “hard soft”. This refers to the way we use a combination of sharp, powerful and also rounder, flowing strikes, blocks and breathing techniques.

Fujiwara Shihan tests my Sanchin kata
Fujiwara Shihan tests my Sanchin kata

Within Goju Ryu my club is part of a subgroup called Seiwakai. Seiichi Fujiwara Shihan is the highest teacher within Seiwakai. Each July, advanced Seiwakai karate students from around the world travel to Japan to undergo the intensive karate training and testing under Fujiwara Shihan. We spend the majority of our time training in the town of Omagari (in Akita province). Each day is the same with 9am-12pm and 3pm to 5pm sessions, with further training in the evenings for those who are tournament oriented.

Day one of training is a shock to the system. The training is mentally and physically challenging. It is an intense cardiovascular workout (compounded by the fact that it is hot and humid in Japan at this time of year). The afternoons are dedicated to working through the finer points of our kata (forms) for our grade level. At the end of the day, we feel tired but satisfied. As the days wear on, we settle into the training routine and our skills improve due to the intensive, master tuition. The evenings are spent dining (sometimes somewhere fancy and sometimes in the supermarket – which is not as bad as it sounds), chatting and doing karaoke with our fellow karateka from around the world (including Russia, Portugal, UK, USA and Canada).

After the Seiwakai grading with Fujiwara Shihan
After the Seiwakai grading with Fujiwara Shihan

I travelled with a group from my club: Sensei Scott, Sensei Bernie and my fellow karateka Taylor, Dave and Ryo. Most of our group underwent the testing. It was a high pressure grading situation which we were able to embrace given the training we had done with our teachers in Australia but also by running with the momentum from our intensive training with Fujiwara Shihan. Taylor, Dave and I were all successful at grading to Shodan (1st degree black belt) at the Seiwakai grading. We weren’t to know if we passed until the next day, however I knew I had performed to the best I could and actually enjoyed the pressure of the testing. It is my best karate memory to date! (Just next to the time when I took 1st place in the under ten years girl’s kumite!)

With our Canadian friends
With our Canadian friends

Following the Seiwakai grading and testing we travelled on the Shinkansen (bullet train) back to Tokyo for the Japanese Karate Federation (JKF) seminar. This was where the Seiwakai students joined with other Goju Ryu students and gained from the knowledge and experience from several great Goju Ryu teachers.

The trip was nothing short of amazing. The karate training was hard and intense, there were times where mental or physical hurdles seemed too great and we were too exhausted to face them, but we smashed them in the end.

It was an honour to train with Fujiwara Shihan and his group of supporting teachers. I am so grateful for the personal coaching I received during the training sessions. The friendships we made with our fellow karateka are to be cherished.

I wish all of my fellow karateka making the trip this year a fantastic few weeks of training and I look forward to seeing you all there in 2014.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

motivational, Traditional Chinese Medicine

2013: what can The Wellness Ninja do for you?

Wowzers!  While seeing patients today I’ve realised we are well on the way towards the end of January and I’ve been so busy in the clinic that I have been neglecting The Wellness Ninja updates. Apologies!

The Capricorn in me is trying to manage the situation with a level of careful thought and organisation right now starting with some reflection and planning for the future – which has involved a carefully written list that may be further developed into a very nerdy excel spreadsheet!

Many of us are also taking this approach to optimising various aspects of our lives with the new year (eg. health, finance, relationships, fun and relaxation).  I’ve seen many patients this month wanting to start detox and weight loss programs, and others who are motivated to tackle old injuries and chronic health problems. However,  if you feel as though you have missed the new year bandwagon, never fear, there’s always  the Chinese New Year in just a few weeks – another new beginning and fresh start!

So, on reflection, I thought I’d share a few of the posts that have been most popular since I started this little blog a few years ago:

  1. Bruise remedies for martial artists, athletes and the accident prone
  2. The acupuncturist and the broken heart
  3. Summer skin treat – the DIY salt scrub
  4. Scuba diving: extreme relaxation
  5. The natural medicine guide to surviving the Kokoda Challenge ( or other 100km hike)
  6. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): can natural medicine help?
  7. Karate: unlock the free flow of Ki
  8. Darkside decadence: the gluten-free biscuit
  9. A treat to settle a sick tummy
  10. How to have breakfast like an emperor (or empress) everyday

I have had a few requests for some blogs on topics such as:

  • What would be the top three herbs a Jedi Knight would take?
  • How does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view different types of alcohol beverages? (After all, medicinal wines are a TCM treatment method.)

Have you got a burning health question you think The Wellness Ninja needs to tackle?  Let me know!

This year will be jam packed with some excellent seminars and of course further Traditional Chinese Medicine masters study at UWS. Fertility, digestion and paediatrics are all on the schedule, and yes, you’ll be reading all about it.  So stay tuned for a wealth of interesting bits and bobs on health, natural beauty, fitness and martial arts.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

 

exercise, martial arts, massage

Massage tension away with a foam roller

foam rollerI often recommend the use of a foam roller to my acupuncture and massage patients who suffer from pain associated with tense backs, buttocks, iliotibial bands (ITBs), hamstrings and calves.  I love doing these stretches myself and they are an excellent way to give yourself a little massage for pain relief and injury prevention.  My back and legs appreciate a good stretch and massage after karate training or a long bike ride. Whether you exercise a lot, are very sedentary or somewhere in between, these exercises may help to reduce your muscle tension. Do them daily for best results.

Daily stretching and self massage will enhance the effect of your acupuncture and massage treatments. If you are suffering from strong pain, numbness or tingling make sure to seek treatment from your health professional.

Here are a few videos of how to use your foam roller for common areas of tension:

Thoracic spine and chest stretch

These stretches focus on the du, ren, gall bladder, lung, pericardium and heart acupuncture channels.

Thoracic spine mobilisation

This massage technique focuses on the du and bladder acupuncture channels.

Buttock massage

These massage technique focuses on the bladder and gall bladder acupuncture channels.

ITB massage

This massage technique focuses on the gall bladder acupuncture channel.

Hamstring and calf massage

This massage technique focuses on the bladder acupuncture channel.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, Diet, exercise, food, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Drying the damp: feeling well in humid climates

This week in Brisbane the heat and humidity have picked up and it’s no surprise that summer is just around the corner.

Humidity has a tendency to make many of us feel:

  • Heavy
  • Lethargic
  • Fluidy
  • Sweaty and sticky (a skin nightmare!) – use this scrub recipe
  • Unmotivated
  • Irritable or melancholy
  • Foggy headed
  • Not hungry, and yet still craving comfort foods and drinks
  • Nauseous and/or prone to loose bowels

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we refer to this syndrome as ‘dampness’.  That is, humidity from the environment, our lifestyle and diet has accumulated in our body and become stagnant, making us feel… bleh.

So, if this sounds like you in humid weather, what can be done?

  1. Keep moving – keep up the exercise even when you feel heavy and unmotivated, it will help you feel better.  Don’t sit for too long, get up regularly.
  2. Stay dry – don’t sit around in sweaty clothes or wet swimsuits.  Towel off properly and get changed.  Also be aware of your living, working and playing environments – are they well ventilated and dry?
  3. Keep up your fluids – it may sound counterproductive to drink more water (2-3L) but we need to promote urination to pass the excess fluid from your system.  That is, clean fluids going in so we can wash away the stagnant ones.
  4. Eat small meals, regularly, and make your lightest meal in the evening.  Don’t overeat.
  5. Reduce sweet, oily, rich and dairy foods – An icy soft drink, creamy gelati or fresh mango may seem like just the treat to give you a refreshing pick up but it will probably have the opposite effect, making you feel heavier and more lethargic than you were before.  Steer clear of  soft drinks, fruit juices, milk shakes, smoothies, ice cream, excessive high-sugar tropical fruits (eg. mangoes and bananas), fatty meats and greasy fried foods.  Before you get upset that I have taken your mango away (because let’s face it, they are delicious), a slice or two after a meal with a slice or two of pawpaw or pineapple is fine for aiding your digestion, we just shouldn’t go crazy on them.  While we are at it, an excessive intake of grains (eg. pasta dishes) will add to the damp feeling.
  6. Eat more light, bitter and pungent foods – these are what you can eat and will help your body reduce excessive fluids that are being held.  Make sure to eat small, light meals that include some ginger, garlic, onions, chili, caraway seeds, aduki (red beans) beans, mung beans, bitter leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, celery and rye (if gluten is ok). A squeeze of lemon or lime in your food and water will be refreshing. Diuretic teas – nettle leaf,  dandelion, corn silk (here is a recipe on how to make it) and green teas are useful – drink them like they are water.  Barley water can also make for a refreshing diuretic drink, although not for the  gluten intolerant.
  7. Herbs and acupuncture – if the humidity is still knocking you around and the thought of doing anything on this list is beyond you, get some professional help from a herbalist or acupuncturist.  They will choose the right herbs (often bitters) and acupoints to kickstart moving the dampness so that you can then get back on track with the lifestyle and dietary recommendations.

If it’s more the heat than the humidity that is getting to you – here’s some ideas to help you feel cooler.

Eating a diet to resolve dampness isn’t fun.  But neither is feeling heavy, lethargic and unmotivated.  So, do what you can, keep moving and if you can make even just a few of the dietary recommendations you should feel lighter and brighter to enjoy this summer.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, emotional health, herbal medicine, mental health, motivational, Traditional Chinese Medicine

How to stress-less: create happy habits

Stress is something that we all encounter on a daily basis.  There is good stress (eustress) that promotes us to grow and change and bad stress (distress) which is counterproductive and wears us down in the long-term.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is not so concerned with ‘stress’ as such, but more about exactly how it affects you.  Does it involve:

  • Busy, anxious mind (maybe panic attacks) with disrupted sleep?
  • Dwelling on thoughts, obsessing and then loss of appetite or change in bowel function?  Often accompanied by bingeing on sweet foods.
  • Sadness and grief.  Perhaps a decline in your immune function as you pick up every bug going around.
  • Fearful of the future.  Often this type of stress is centered around job loss, financial concerns or fertility problems.  This stress can trigger intense fatigue, premature ageing and reproductive disorders.
  • Frustration and feeling stuck in a situation.  Your stress goes straight to your neck and shoulders, with the tension resulting in headaches and grumpiness.

Your exact type of stress helps us to discern an appropriate treatment for you, and each of these types of stress will have considerably different treatment plans.

So what can you do to manage stress – here’s a general stress buster plan:

  • Get good sleep – if you don’t already sleep well, get help to make this happen
  • Eat a healthy diet – no processed or high sugar foods, focus on whole foods (colourful vegies, good quality protein, good fats and whole grains)
  • Exercise – it’s an excellent stress buster – do a form of exercise that you like.  Where possible do it in a green space (outside in nature) – studies show it will make you happier.  By just adding exercise to your routine, you’ll find you’ll automatically improve other factors in your life, so it’s a nice place to start.
  • Lose bad habits – quit smoking and recreational drugs, quit or at least reduce alcohol consumption (if you don’t know what the healthy range is click here).
  • Find pleasure daily – do something that you really enjoy every day.  This can be a creative pursuit (e.g. dancing, dreaming, painting, writing, baking, playing or appreciating music) or other nice things (e.g. massage, acupuncture, take a bath, give yourself a facial, inhale your favourite essential oil, give someone a hug, laugh, cook for someone).
  • Enhance your relationships – a support network is your safety net and your source of giving and receiving which has shown to add to your happiness.  Actively develop your relationships with family, friends and/or people within your community.
  • Meditation – People who meditate as little as twice per week have been shown to have a better state of mental health than the general population.  Find a teacher, read a book, find a site on the net like this  or this, get a CD or download an app – but whatever you do, get started on reducing your mind chatter now.  In fact why not meditate in one moment like this:

A study on acupuncture side effects discovered that major side effects were extremely uncommon from the therapy but one of the most common ‘minor’ side effects was relaxation!

Herbal medicine also has a lot to offer people who are stressed.  It’s best to see a herbalist who can make up an individualised formula for you that can help to shift the way you deal with stress.  Some herbal medicines interact with medications so getting professional advice is recommended.

If you are really not coping and need help immediately then please contact Lifeline.

So, if you need some additional stress management help, you know what to do, pick one of the above mentioned tips and start now – seize the moment and release that pressure valve!

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

exercise, fertility, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Yin and Yang of Yoga

A very great friend of mine and fellow Ashtanga yoga devotee recommended Chandra Krama:  The Moon Sequence DVD by Matthew Sweeney to me. And I have to say that I absolutely love it.

The sequence is similar in style to traditional Ashtanga practice – it begins with a salutations-type routine, flows between postures with the breath and draws on many familiar postures.  However, The Moon Sequence is different. It’s all about Yin (softer, quieter, slower and more grounded). The emphasis is on not pushing yourself too hard (although the DVD is still quite physically challenging) and has a much greater focus on the hips and lower body.  This sequence is said to be beneficial to women in promoting a healthy menstrual cycle.  It is also very good for anyone with lower back, hip, buttock and leg tension, tightness and weakness.  After doing this sequence my hip flexors feel stretched, my butt has worked hard, my lower back feels warm and relaxed, and my mind quiet and peaceful.

Many people today lead busy, stressful and fast-paced (Yang) lives.  Many of my patients find it difficult to fit in some quiet time for themselves between their other commitments.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine we value a balance of Yin and Yang for optimal health.  Restful activities nurture our Yin.  You may nurture your Yin through meditation, relaxation, massage, acupuncture, reading or taking a bath.  Some types of yoga are also beneficial for nurturing Yin.  The Moon Sequence is one of these.  Hot yoga schools may be Yin depleting (hot room with the goal of producing sweat) and should be minimised if nourishing Yin is your priority.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

acupuncture, fertility, herbal medicine, pregnancy

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): can natural medicine help?

Here’s a little summary (from my Masters literature review) of what Traditional Chinese and natural medicine has to offer women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

For those wondering what PCOS is, it’s a female reproductive condition which is diagnosed by excluding other diseases, hence it’s known as a syndrome.  To be diagnosed with PCOS according to the Rotterdam criteria, a woman needs to have any two of the following:

  1. Polycystic ovaries (that’s right, ovaries with many cysts on them).  The jury is out on how many cysts constitute PCOS, but they may be arranged in a classic black pearl necklace formation identified by ultrasound.
  2. Androgen excess.  Basically, we are talking about too much free testosterone (but other hormones may be out of balance too – including the LH FSH ratio.)  This hormonal imbalance can lead to symptoms such as hirsutism (an increase in body hair on the face, chest, nipples and lower belly), hair loss/thinning (again in the male pattern) and acne (although this is controversial as to whether it is definitely a part of the syndrome.
  3. Anovulatory menstrual cycles/amenorrhoea.  This means that either you have stopped having periods altogether (and you are not pregnant or menopausal) or that you are not ovulating during your cycle.  Women may also experience longer menstrual cycles.  (35-60 day cycles are common in PCOS).

So, what can be done if you are given this diagnosis from your doctor (aside from or complementary to the common drug protocols – OCP, Clomid, Metformin)?

  • Acupuncture.  Research suggests that acupuncture can be useful in increasing the number of menstrual cycles a woman with PCOS has (that means bringing the length of the cycle down to a healthier range).  Two randomised controlled trials have been undertaken on the topic.  The first double-blind study showed that both the control group and the sham group (who had pretend acupuncture with a special non-needle) both improved on their before trial results.  This suggests that perhaps the sham acupuncture may have worked after all.  (Pretend acupuncture is very difficult to do without making a change to the body.)  The second trial, I think used better acupuncture points (more like what I would use in my clinic), and showed that acupuncture was superior to exercise for PCOS.  The researchers pointed out that doing acupuncture and exercise would be the most beneficial treatment.
  • Paeonia and Licorice.  These herbs have both been shown to be beneficial in women with PCOS.  They have also been studied in Chinese herbal formulas for the condition.
  • Vitamin D.  Have you had your levels checked?  Researchers identified that women with PCOS are often low in Vitamin D.  This has a relationship with calcium in your body and can influence ovulation.  This makes sense from a Chinese medicine point of view as sunlight (one source of Vitamin D that we have) is a source of Yang (the warming, energetic, functional aspect of our body).  A woman needs a peak in Yang to ovulate.  (Anyone who has taken Basal Body Temperature charts knows to look for a peak in body temperature prior to ovulation.)
  • Spearmint Tea.  A month-long study on hirsutism was undertaken with participants drinking 2 cups of spearmint tea each day.  The participants experienced a decrease in androgens and a subjective decrease in male pattern body hair.
  • Weight loss and Insulin management. Most of the studies specify that the treatment is more likely to work in patients with a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and without insulin resistance.  There are additional dietary, herbal and nutritional interventions that may assist in these areas, so that your PCOS treatment works more efficiently.  These areas can not be overlooked.  It’s suggested that PCOS may be an evolutionary condition allowing a small percentage of women to be able to reproduce in times of starvation (when most other women would experience infertility).

If you have been diagnosed with PCOS, I recommend discussing the condition with not only your doctor but also your acupuncturist or natural medicine practitioner (who has an interest in women’s health).  PCOS if left untreated, may be a risk factor for other metabolic disorders including diabetes and hypertension.  Every woman is different, and PCOS is notorious for presenting in many different ways so an individualised treatment plan is a must.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.