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The Mutual Interdependence of Yin and Yang in a Toddler

Putting our baby, Peyton, to sleep, whether for a nap or for the night, has never been easy… especially for me, who lacks my wife’s physiological advantage to match what is probably her more calming energy and cooling constitution. Thus far we suspect, for better or worse, that our daughter’s constitution is more similar to mine.

There was an entire three-month period, somewhere between her 10th and 13th months if I remember correctly, that no matter what I tried failed—she wouldn’t sleep for me—and it drove me insane with all of the typically childish new parent emotional extremes: Frustration, exhaustion, resentment, etc.

I tried bouncing her, rocking her, petting her on the upper back, petting her on the lower back, doing more of a tushy pat than a pet (supposedly the key for our babysitter), and feeding her until she finally and predictably refused the bottle completely. Almost nothing worked during this interim, until one day I came up with a different idea.

One day in mid-tantrum, instead of trying to gently calm her I decided to cradle and hold her tight on my lap, restraining her from squirming away from me while screaming and crying with that rageful fatigue seemingly unique to babies. I squeezed her close so she knew I was there, so she knew that I cared, but at the same time I wouldn’t let her go—at least not for a few minutes. I’d hum into her frontal lobe, gently kissing her forehead, to contrast my fully grown man arms locked around this poor 25-pound angel when all she wanted was off my lap. When I finally let her go she’d collapse face down on the bed next to me, and I’d return to yin. I’d lay next to her petting her back and she’d fall asleep almost instantly. It was the perfect depiction of the mutually interdependent relationship between yin and yang.

In order to enter yin, to fully relax and go to sleep, Peyton had internal yang fire that first needed to release. Maybe we didn’t get quite enough out running around on the playground, or maybe as I prefer to think, her fire was so fueled by the excitement of being with Daddy, that my task was a much taller one than the likes of the babysitter. In any case, she was dealing with a very normal amount of hyperactive central nervous activity that had to vent, and by restraining her physical movements while allowing her to vocalize frustration, she was finally able to viscerally experience the fatigue subdued beneath her heat.

As adults we are no different. If we do not nourish our body’s yang, our yin will eventually suffer, and vice versa. A lack of movement or physical exertion over time may engender an inability to calm down, which can manifest in any way from insomnia to anxiety, irritability, or systemic dryness, as our healthy metabolic fluids dry out due to systemic inflammatory heat.

Conversely, we must nourish our body’s yin in order to experience healthy yang energy long term. Yin is best represented in life’s pauses, as many yoga teachers instruct us to be mindful of the moments between breaths, the end of our exhales and beginning of inhales. Taking a pause while eating our meals, pauses in the middle of each day, periodic vacations, lunch breaks, or 15 minutes to simply lie down and close your eyes. Every form of stoppage will nourish our yin, which will then logically allow us to fully experience our healthiest yang.

After a long nap, a stoppage, Peyton’s energy levels return to infinite, and our cycle continues. I take her to the playground, chase her up and down slides, play full-contact swings, and sometimes just let her run around the periphery of the park. My own yin is as under-nourished as it’s ever been, so I must compensate in other places. Going to sleep earlier, stealing naps whenever possible, eating a bit more animal protein, and ensuring to stay hydrated, as fluids are yin. Fortunately, we’ve since passed the phase of restraint strategy while segueing into her apparently close to complete understanding of language. Now I just do the petting and patting, cuddling next to her, and whisper to her: “I promise I’ll be here when you wake up.” Lately that’s what works best. But check back with me next month. Surely, it’ll be something different.

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Acupuncture and Nutritional Support

Acupuncture and Nutritional Support

If you are one of the millions of people who made a New Year’s resolution last month to eat better and make healthier choices in 2023, then it might be time to take stock of how that process is going. Are you already off the wagon and back to your unhealthy habits? Or are you keeping your eye on your goals and making progress? No matter which side of the coin you fall on, you might want to talk to your acupuncturist about your nutritional goals. They can be a wealth of information and help as you look to build a better and stronger you.  continue reading »

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The “Unresolved Exterior Pathogen”

I think one of my favorite concepts in Chinese Medicine is that of the “unresolved exterior pathogen.” What does it mean? When we catch a cold, whether bacterial or viral, most cases should be vented, sweated out, while we rest as much as possible and consume warm foods, such as the classic chicken soup to support our “wei qi,” or immunological cellular energy.

Obviously most modern people do not do this. We take over-the-counter cough suppressants, congestion suppressants, anti-pyretics, and every other suppressant to make us feel as comfortable as possible until the cold resolves… or at least appears to.

This is a totally understandable mistake. First of all, most people don’t know that Chinese Medicine can treat the common cold (along with nearly everything else under the sun), and even if they did herbalists and herbal medicine are not readily available to most.

From a Chinese Medical perspective when a cold is suppressed it gets pushed deeper into the body, from the “wei qi” or immunological layer, to the organs and metabolic layer. Anyone have digestive issues since having Covid-19? This is an “unresolved exterior.”

More common symptoms of unresolved pathogens include rheumatological, dermatological, or orthopedic; autoimmune joint pain being the most self-explanatory, which makes orthopedics not far behind it. Lingering “dampness,” residual plaques or mucus from an exterior pathogen go latent, and if we’re lucky enough that they don’t create the kind of molecular mimicry to over-activate our immune system they may lodge into our muscles, tendons, and ligaments. While neck and back pain during a common cold are well-known, pay more attention to such symptoms that linger in their wake. It usually indicates fluids that should have been sweated out are trapped wherever we happen to be orthopedically most vulnerable.

Thankfully, we’ve gotten to a point where few people are any longer terrified or paralyzed by Covid-19. Most of us are more or less going about our lives taking varying precautions—this doesn’t mean we cannot at the same time respect our opponent.

After I had Covid I continued to consult and get treated by mentors for at least one month after symptoms resolved, with the obvious intention of prevention and full resolution, not just from a biomedical standpoint, but from a more neurotic, perfectionist Chinese Medical assessment. I wanted to ensure that my tongue looked like my tongue again—also that we took steps to avoid any of my own constitutional proclivities from rearing their heads as a result of any unresolved inflammation.

While going through Chinese Medical school it was fascinating to think that my eczema and ski conditions that I’d had all my life may have been a result of an improperly treated cold I had as a baby. Or to view my low back or knee pain as not something relegated exclusively to the orthopedic surface and/or old athletic injuries, but connected to my systemic inflammation. I beg your pardon for my broken record tendency in refutal of one my greatest pet peeves:

“Holistic” does not mean everything alternative, “New Agey,” nor related to spa treatments, nor gentle or weaker than biomedicine. It means analyzing all symptoms and systems as interconnected and the incredibly more challenging task of treating accordingly.



Posted in Acupuncture, Allergies, Arthritis, Herbal Medicine, Immune System, Migraines & Headaches, Nutrition, Pain, Traditional Chinese Medicine | Comments Off on The “Unresolved Exterior Pathogen”

Happy New Year of the Water Rabbit!

This week marked the first of the lunar new year. To contrast last year’s more rambunctious energy of the tiger, we now enter the year of the “Yin Water Rabbit,” which bodes to be gentler, more harmonious, healing and peaceful.

The rabbit is known to be resourceful, which is why the Chinese believe the year of the rabbit to be financially promising. The rabbit is equally thought of as relatively sensitive, diplomatic, and homemaking, which makes 2023 a potentially great year for family affairs of all kinds, whether baby-making, baby-raising, purchasing homes, or staying at home more frequently to nurture loved ones. The fact that the element in this rabbit year is of yin water only further solidifies these recommendations or themes.

With that being said, it is always important to recognize that the qualities that create our own strengths are generally at the root of our challenges or weaknesses as well. People with a lot of energy or charisma are often poor sleepers, more irritable, and temperamental, all of which a result of their internal heat; while those who are calmer and more laid back have a tendency to laziness and procrastination. They tend to be the colder body/mind types.

Because the yin water rabbit is so naturally peaceful and forgiving, its year’s potential side effects worth being mindful of mitigating are depression and reclusiveness. Of course, we should take advantage of the rabbit’s strengths, of looking inward, meditation practices, and confronting our fears and feelings. At the same time, while immersed in yin water it is important to periodically generate fire, our yang energy to balance this energy around us.

Basic ways to do this are taking trips whenever possible, connecting with community as much as possible, and exercising to raise your body temperature, provided that exercise isn’t something already being done to excess. Regularly partaking in such activities should nicely balance the Yin Water Rabbit’s tendency to melancholy and/or anxiety this year.

For my part, with a yin water year beginning in the middle of winter (as the lunar year always does), I have been using a great deal more moxibustion in the clinic lately. The mugwort herb we burn on certain acupuncture points has a warming, healthy vasodilatory effect, which can be wonderful at preventing pathogenic yin, or local “dampness” in the body. While it’s fine to use in the summer, I feel logically more drawn to moxibustion in the cold of January, especially now in the days of the rabbit.



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Food as Medicine

food as medicine

Mama Always Said: You Are What You Eat

Maybe mom really did know best when it came to nutrition. As research has shown, what we eat can actually impact our health profoundly. Over the years, we have learned that our dietary choices can influence our risk of disease. And some have made it a profitable business to teach us new ways to look at food (anti-inflammatory diet, Keto, heart healthy, etc.).  continue reading »

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