Awesome Aussies – Jia Ni Teo

I am utterly thrilled to share another one of my “Awesome Aussies” with you today… she is another beautiful health-focused soul that I met during my trip to Australia in March. The second person in my Awesome Aussies blog series is the fabulous Jia Ni Teo.

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Who is Jia Ni? She is an intuitive life coach, the creator of the “Happy, Healthy, Abundant in 6 Weeks” online program, and is now looking to work with energy blocks within her clients.

In Australia we met up: in Sydney, and went to the Conscious Club.

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jia ni & rhiannon pic

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I also met Jia Ni online during Connie Chapman’s 90 Day Transformation Project last year, as I did with so many of the women I will be featuring in this blog series… hear in this video below about our time together in that group, and all about why my favourite subject – ENERGY – is sooooo important for holistic health, and what great things Jia Ni is now doing by working with energy as well as nutrition.

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Visit jianiteo.com for more information and to get tons of free goodies that give you just a TASTE of the fabulous things this girl has to offer!

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jia ni logo

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2013

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6 Ways to Activate The Wood Element Now

I was recently asked over on my Facebook page, how we can bring more of the Wood Element into our lives? Well, ask and you shall receive! This time last year I wrote about Spring being the season of the Wood Element, in a post called Woody Springtime, but here is a short post on how we can activate the Wood Element, right now, at it’s most potent time… well, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere that is!

1. Activate the Wood Element Taste

Each of the Five Elements has a “taste” associated with it. Fire is bitter, Water is salty, Earth is sweet, Metal is pungent and Wood is sour. Drink warm lemon water, or apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning. It will go to the Wood Element’s organs of the Liver and Gall Bladder, helping to activate their function of detoxification and movement of the Qi.

2. Move the Qi Physically

Part of the Liver’s (Wood organ) function is to move the Qi (energy) in the body smoothly to all areas of the body. It is when this movement is impaired that we get stagnation and pain – including stress, irritable bowel syndrome, tight shoulders, painful necks, headaches, migraines and so on… To help the Wood Element out, we should MOVE our bodies regularly to help move the Qi, and keep the flow nice and smooth. This could include running and going to the gym, but it doesn’t have to be as energetic as that, walking, dancing to your favourite song, or doing something slower like pilates or yoga ALL move the Qi physically!

3. Put those Plans into Action

The Wood Element is all about organising, planning, making decisions and acting on those plans. You might find that until you start properly coming out of the hibernation and slowing down of Winter (the Water Element), and into the active season of Spring that you feel stuck, stagnant and a bit low or depressed. This might be MORE of the case this year as we have had a LONG and hard Winter this year, and only NOW are things starting to bloom and blossom and move FORWARD. If you have had something in mind, get that Wood energy flowing and actually START putting them into action! You and your Wood Element will feel MUCH better for it!

4. Move the Qi with Food Energetics

As we have seen above, moving the Qi physically is important in helping the Wood Element and Liver function correctly, but we can also do this with food and drink via Chinese Food Energetics. Green tea is a great Qi mover, which makes it a very good stress-busting drink, perfect to have in your desk at work! Choose this over coffee, which only serves to put additional strain on the Liver. Additionally, it is not surprising to find that many seasonal foods such as new carrots being pulled up at this time, also help to move the Qi – nature does tend to provide EXACTLY what is needed at the RIGHT time! Take a look at how to make my green tea & carrot cake, perfect for activating and supporting the Wood Element in it’s season of Spring.

5. Assert Your Boundaries Appropriately

Another great way to activate the Wood energy at any time of the year, and bring more of the Wood Element into our lives is to assert our boundaries. This can be a tricky one for some of us, and this is where the word “appropriately” comes in. If you think about the way a willow bends and sways in the wind, it is TOO flexible, and if we use that anaolgy with our boundaries, that is not helpful for us, nor those around us – if we take on too many projects, we don’t end up doing ANY of them very well. Conversely, an old oak might not bend in the wind at all, until an almighty gust cracks it in half because it is so rigid and brittle. If our boundaries are too rigid, we cannot grow upwards and outwards as a tree ought to, we cannot change and develop. Check in with how flexible or rigid you are with your rules and boundaries, could you bring more BALANCE to your Wood Element right now?

6. Have Acupuncture

We have a couple of ways in which we can help bring more of the Wood Element into a patient’s life during the Spring. We can use what we call the horary points (Wood acupuncture points on the Wood energy channels) during the season, to ACTIVATE all the virtues of the Wood element, and help a patient embrace the energy and move forward with all the planning, organising etc that they may need to do.

We can also needle the Wood points on the channels of the Element that the patient is… this might sound more complicated, but it isn’t. For me, being a Water CF, I tend to have more points needled on the Water channels (Kidney & Bladder channels because they are the Water organs)… so during the Spring, I wouldn’t necessarily have the Wood horary points, I might have the Wood points on my Water Channels done. This then activates the Wood energy within the context of my Water Element; for example, encouraging action on plans made, might help my Water to not have such a BIG fear of the future, because there is movement going forward, my Water is no longer “frozen”.

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Don’t forget each of us has ALL of the Five Elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal & Water – within us, we just tend to have ONE of the Elements that we resonate most with, or is like our default setting… so although this post is PARTICULARLY relevant to those Wood CFs (constitutional factors or constitutional Elements) amongst us, during the Spring we can ALL benefit from activating and connecting in with the Wood Element.

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2013

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Got a Right Pain in the B***?! Get Acupuncture!

What?! You thought I meant another area of your anatomy?! I’m talking about the BACK! This week is “Back Care Awareness Week”, 8th – 12th October 2012, and to mark the occasion The British Acupuncture Council commissioned a nation wide poll about back pain. The results contained some surprising stats, with the increase of back pain in the under 35s, and some putting their back pain down to having too much sex!! Very saucy, but actually more in line with Chinese Medicine theory than you might imagine!

In Chinese Medicine we view back pain as being caused either by a deficiency of energy (or Qi) in the body, which feels like a constant dull ache or as though the back is weak; alternatively, back pain can come from a blockage of energy, which is like a spasm or a strong stabbing pain, that comes on quickly.

We tend to expect back pain from wear and tear in older people, this is because our Qi / energy, and Jing – which is the constitutional essence we are born with – naturally declines with age. Think of Jing as our “juicy stuff” – we get drier and more wrinkly as we get older! This reflects our natural decline in energy, Jing & Yin over a lifetime. But surprisingly, the study revealed an increase of back pain in the under 35s, particularly those aged between 18 and 24 years old – 4% visited a GP about their problem and were turned away without treatment – so it seems as though there might be some modern reasons behind younger people suffering with what is normally considered an affliction of middle age.

Things that might contribute to the deficiency type of back ache would include, overwork or burning candle at both ends – partying hard, or consistently working late and then going out on the town, repeating night after night without proper rest. All of these things deplete Yin – rest is really important to keep this topped up! Take a look at “Yin O’Clock” for my tips for “active resting”. Bad posture and things like sitting incorrectly at computer work stations in the office can also weaken the back over time.

The spasm type is usually more temporary and as it is caused by a blockage of Qi, it is often helped by movement – so this may be on the increase in younger people because they might not be getting enough exercise. Though this type can get worse after exposure to cold or damp weather – in the older age group, this tends to come from gardening or something similar, in the younger demographic, it might be down to things like sitting / sleeping on damp ground at festivals, or fashion trends like crop tops, exposing the midriff and lower back to the elements – sometimes high fashion just doesn’t go with the damp chilly British weather! Keep your Kidneys COVERED, they are the powerhouse for the warmth in your body! (See this TOP TIP for helping back pain in this week’s OK Magazine!)

Another big fashion trend may also be a culprit – the latest heavy or large “it” bag draped over one arm or shoulder puts uneven pressure on the spine, either straining it (so ladies get a spasm type pain in their backs), or weakening the strength in the back over time, creating the deficient dull ache.

And this is the bit you have been waiting for, right?! The sexy bit!! Incredibly, 2% of the entire group polled claimed their back pain was from having lots of sex, which is not such a strange concept in Chinese medicine and certainly applies to the younger age group! Even the ancient Chinese texts state that too much sex depletes the Jing, that core energy of the body – this core energy is important in nourishing and supporting the spine – so its not just acrobatics in the bedroom that could cause back pain, it could be the amount you’re getting! Tee hee!!

Sadly, nearly half of those polled (48%) rely on painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs to deal with their back pain, but only 12% tend to choose acupuncture or other natural remedies, like massage. What a shame! With the latest research on painkillers actually creating more negative side-effects if they are taken daily or on a regular basis, it makes seeking a healthier alternative even more important.

Acupuncture is a great alternative to painkillers and/or anti-inflammatory drugs, as it seeks to address the root cause of the back pain, and relieve it by boosting the energy that is lacking, or moving the stuck energy that is causing the pain. This differentiation of identifying EXACTLY what is going on in a patient’s body is the benefit of using acupuncture to treat back pain, and means the results are often better in the long term.

If you think acupuncture could help you with your back issues, please do get in touch – choose to NOURISH your body from the inside out, STRENGTHEN any deficiencies, and get HEALTHIER, as well as reducing pain!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012

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Err, What’s Up Doc?!

For those staunch followers of the blog, you may remember last Autumn when I did some baking with seasonal produce, making a breakfast loaf that had all the right energetics for nourishing the digestive system, the Lungs, and resolving phlegm – all things that are needed to maintain health during the Autumn and into Winter.

Back in April, I did another short film about Spring and food, but with one thing and another it has taken me some time to edit it and get it online. In it, I have once again taken the principles of Chinese Food Energetics (see previous post if you don’t know what I mean by this), and come up with a recipe with spring carrots (that’s where the Bugs Bunny title catchphrase comes in – sorry, I couldn’t resist it!) and green tea, that is just perfect for the season, the season’s organs, and essentially moving that Qi! And, don’t forget, I wrote about this season a while back, in the Woody Springtime blog post, so get the lowdown about what Spring means in Chinese medicine, right there…

As for here, I am going to keep the writing brief, as the explanations are in the video below, but I thought I would share the energetics of the ingredients, so you can keep track with my rambling! But ensuring the smooth flow of Qi in the body can help with stress, depression, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (also listen to my recent interview on BBC Radio Oxford about how acupuncture can help IBS), period pain and bloating.

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Carrots = neutral in temperature, sweet in flavour, route into the body via Stomach, Lungs & Liver, tonifying & circulating Qi in the body.

Green Tea = cool in temperature, bitter & sweet in flavour, affects the Liver, helping smooth the circulation of Qi.

Raisins = boost Qi, has the Liver as one of its energetic organ routes into the body.

Almonds = help circulation of Qi, boost levels of Qi, resolve Phlegm.

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Breakfast = energy packed, ground almonds add protein, builds Qi for your day.

Elevenses = mid-morning snack, moving & smoothing Qi, reducing stress levels.

Afternoon Tea = picks you up during the 4pm energy lull, boosting Qi & getting Qi moving.

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If you would like to make the recipe, visit the downloads page of the website and click the thumbnail! Acupuncture works on the principles of Chinese Medicine, and as acupuncturists we can use this theory to guide our lifestyle and dietary choices. In short, we can complement our treatments with recipes and foods that will further enhance what we wish to do with the Qi (or energy) in our bodies – move it, boost it, nourish it, and so on. The good news is, that YOU can do that too, in your own home! To discuss more about how Chinese Food Energetics could help you towards better health, contact me, or leave a comment below! Happy Spring Baking!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome on BBC Radio Oxford

At the beginning of the week I was asked to go on BBC Radio Oxford’s afternoon show to talk about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and how acupuncture can help sufferers with their symptoms. ITV’s Dr Hilary Jones was also on the show to give the conventional medicine view, and to highlight a new study into the illness that suggests 45% of Britons suffer some form of digestive problem.

IBS is an umbrella term for many digestive issues such as pain or discomfort in the abdomen – anywhere between the chest and the hips – and also includes changes in frequency or consistency of stools.

Jo Thoenes (of “Jo in the Afternoon” fame) spoke to a lovely patient of mine, and fellow alternative therapist, Anna Shaw, about how treatment with me helped her with bloating and pain, that was affected by stress and her menstrual cycle. And I explained how we view IBS in Chinese Medicine – all to do with the smooth flow of Qi or energy within the body. Take a listen to what she, and I, said below:

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Emotions can also disrupt the smooth flow of Qi. Stress, frustration or anger can cause energy to move upwards, interrupting the digestive energy’s normal flow. Worry can knot the Qi, causing stagnation, that creates pain and bloating.

We can also offer advice underpinned by Chinese Food Energetics, identifying possible food intolerances, like wheat or dairy, guiding patients toward better food choices. Additionally with IBS, adding in foods that help promote the smooth flow of energy in the body can be beneficial – these foods include green tea, lemon, carrots and almonds – stick around for a recipe and Spring baking film coming your way next week with these very ingredients! As Spring is the season when energy is all about flow and movement and growth, its particularly important to ensure the smooth and correct flow of Qi at this time!

If you recognise some of the symptoms discussed during the show, contact me to discuss how acupuncture could help you have a better quality of life – stop thinking about the potential of needing to go to the toilet wherever you are, stop thinking about whether you can wear your favourite slinky outfit or whether your tummy is too bloated, stop thinking about if you can eat out at a fabulous restaurant without getting pain… start living and feel better! If you’re weary of needles, talk to me about how Chinese Food Energetics could make a difference to your diet.

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012

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Woody Springtime

So Spring has sprung… well, it kinda sprung, then jumped to a week or so of Summer heat, then the snow came back and we all put our mittens and earmuffs back on… and now, it sort of seems right, April showers are here and we’re uncertain what kind of coat we should be wearing – yep, that sounds like Spring to me!

In Chinese Medicine Spring is the season associated with the Wood Element. It represents a new beginning, a coming out of the hibernation and inward energy of the Winter. There is a real push to this Yang Woody Spring energy, a force to it – like the “shout” tone of voice, the assertion, justice and defiance associated with the Element. I guess there has to be a strength to this Element and season, all the shoots need this kind of energy – they are coming up and out of the bulbs and seeds after a Winter underground, waiting, storing all their energy ready for this time when the light and temperature increases.

The colour of the Wood Element, and Spring is very aptly green, the movement of energy (or Qi) is upwards and outwards. Quite literally, I see the Wood Element in my mind as a tree, the branches reaching upwards to the sky, and outwards, growing, moving forward with strength, blossoming and blooming with leaves, flowers, and fruits – it is this positive, busy, expansive and increasing energy that we can tap into at this time of year.

The Wood Element (along with its organs of the Liver and Gall Bladder) is all about vision of the future, planning, acting on those plans and moving forward. The sense organ of Wood is the eyes, so we can “see” things in different ways during the Spring. We may have new visions, feel compelled to start a new venture, or to pick up on something we put down during the Winter months… its no surprise that everyone feels inspired to get to work on the garden, the home or the DIY as soon as Spring arrives! It’s all about new projects!

People who have Wood as their CF (Element, or constitutional factor) can thrive during this time – as the old saying goes, they really can be “in their Element”!! Ideas blossom, things flower – reflecting the activity in nature and in our gardens. Or it can be a difficult period where they feel as though they should be moving forward, but can’t. It can be difficult to “see” where the future plans or vision should be, the Qi (or energy) doesn’t flow upwards or outwards as it should, it can get stuck and stagnant… this can create what I refer to as a Springtime depression.

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And don’t forget, although we tend to revert back to one “default Element” or CF – mine is Water – we do actually all have all Five of the Elements within us, working together (harmoniously, or otherwise!), so we can ALL feel pushed positively forward on this wave of Woody springtime energy, or feel a bit lacking and unable to “see” ahead.

A tree can be flexible, bending in the wind, and weathering the storm, as long as it’s branches are properly nourished… if the tree is lacking or deficient, it can become stiff and brittle, breaking easily at the first sign of stress. And this is how some of us can feel during the Spring. We may have done too much during the Winter, or been exhausted by coughs and colds at the beginning of the year… as the rest of the world around us starts to blossom and push forward with Wood energy, we can feel flat and unable to move forward at all.

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This disparity between what we feel inside, and what the rest of the busy world appears to be doing outside, can cause us to feel hopeless, stuck and numb, we may feel as though we (or “our branches”) might break if we even try to do anything at all.

Whichever way you’re feeling at the moment, acupuncture can provide a real boost during this change of season, helping you to top up your energies, to move forward in a way that you want, overcoming any stagnation or frustrations. Treatment at this time can also help with hay fever (that might be starting to creep in around now?!) and can expel any pathogens left over from Winter that we haven’t quite managed to shake off yet… and in true Wood Element style, this “forward planning” of sorts, actually leaves our immune systems in better shape for next Winter! So Spring into action and contact me now, to start something new and positive today – acupuncture!

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© Rhiannon Griffiths 2012

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CSI: Energy

So did anyone catch last Tuesday’s CSI: Miami on Channel 5 (Season 9, Ep 13)? I love this programme, but it was almost a bit too scary for me last week to be honest – though it had just the right amount of analytical working out who-did-what for me to keep with the episode.

Horatio Caine once again attempted to track down a dangerous fugitive called Memmo Fierro, who in earlier episodes, had escaped from prison, coldly killed countless innocent people and threatened to take over control of Miami from the police. Half way through, a legal representative who threatened to expose the gang and their plans had her throat cut by an “old man” in broad daylight, which was almost enough for me to turn over to something more lighthearted, but the energy change I felt in my own body made me curious. I had felt this before when I had indeed switched off the television completely. I knew this energy, and I knew the person who had made this energy move like this in my body… I said out loud to the others in my living room, “that old man is Memmo!”. They, like the characters in CSI: Miami, insisted the killer was an old man… but the story unfolded to reveal that the hideous Memmo was indeed wearing an “old man” prosthetic mask when he killed the lady.

There were comments of “how did you know that?” and “you should be a detective!”, and I replied with “I am already a detective”… and I am, a detective in Chinese Medicine. I have to figure out what is going on in a patient’s body and emotions, track down what could have contributed to certain symptoms starting, when they might have started, who else in their lives might be impacting upon their health – a body and energetics whodunnit, or a CSI of energy! And this is all before I even pick up a needle, or decide on appropriate points!

So how did I know it was Memmo in a mask, purely from the way he made me feel? Well, we all have emotions and they create a certain movement of energy within our bodies. For example, anger (Wood Element emotion) can make our energies rise upwards – it can come out as a shout, or get stuck in the chest causing stagnation of Qi and a lot of sighing. Fear (Water Element emotion) makes Qi (or energy) descend, we can become frozen, pulling our lower backs in and down.

Worry or overthinking (Earth Element emotion) can cause our stomachs to feel strange and our appetites to disappear. Sadness or grief (Metal Element emotion) dissipates energy, causing our shoulders to hunch inwards and our breathing to become stifled. Even Joy (Fire Element emotion) can become pathogenic if experienced too much, our hearts become too overwhelmed with the upward energy and it can turn to mania… more common is the opposite, a “lack of joy”, which is a flatness of energy, which barely moves at all – a kind of depression… we all know how we feel when we have watched something particularly depressing, it is hard to even move off the couch afterwards.

I knew it was Memmo from the shock felt in my body – my energy went down, his matter-of-fact coldness made my body freeze, I stopped breathing a little, then only shallow breaths… my fight or flight mechanism had been activated and I wanted to stop watching – this was exactly the reaction my body and emotions had had in the episode that tracked his escape from jail.

At the end of the episode on Tuesday night, I realised I had been holding myself rigid, my diaphragm felt tight, and I needed to loudly “breathe out” the worry, fear and anxiety that had been building to a crescendo through the programme. A member of my household remarked, “but it is only pretend, its not real”, to which I said, “but the emotions evoked, and movements of energy in the body are real, whether the programme is or not…” So keep that in mind next time you watch an emotional rollercoaster of a film – the energies in your body are moving and changing as if the situation you’re watching was real, and this can have an impact on your health!

If you would like more information on how your emotions might be affecting your health, visit the website, or call to talk through how acupuncture could positively help you.