My Transition from Practitioner to Teacher

Quayle_Mouses-House-Ch_978-1-84819-247-8_colourjpg-printby Susan Quayle, author of The Mouse’s House: Children’s Reflexology for Bedtime or Anytime, illustrated by Melissa Muldoon

If you are thinking of transitioning from a practitioner to a teacher I would definitely recommend it, especially if you have created your own beautiful course and have a passion to share it with the world. On the whole, the world is just waiting for you to share your vision with them.

As a maternity and fertility reflexologist I build powerful relationships with women at the most amazing times in their lives. Working with pregnant women is such an awe inspiring privilege with the therapist developing a connection to both mother and child. Very soon after making this career choice I realised that all too often the relationship ends abruptly after the child is born when really a whole new relationship should be starting. Babies absolutely love reflexology, whilst inside their mothers womb as well as skin to skin, so to speak!

For a long time after having this realisation I thought about how I could continue to see parents after their babies were born and the answer I came up with was to run a course for them. There was a problem with this idea though, what and how would I teach them? Just coming along for a session would be great but wouldn’t really be building any relationships or offering them the chance to bond with other new mothers. So the content needed to last for more than one session, be engaging, attractive and fun. I thought I might be able to create a course but there was a lot of work to consider and I really felt that without a proper concept it would feel a bit flat. I thought a lot more, for months, years even! As with all ideas they come after a lot of ground work has already been put in and one day in the bath an idea came to me of The Children’s Reflexology Programme, TCRP, and a lovely, simple story about a mouse that would visit all her friends and ask for help to make her new-found house cosy. The Mouse’s House and the development possibly for future courses were born. I have become a strong believer in the concept that if you work on ideas for long enough everything falls into place.

There was a lot of work involved in creating the book and finding Melissa Muldoon, the amazing illustrator, but after a year we self-published and shortly after that Lucy Buckridge, an editor from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, approached me and we now have the beautiful book that we see today. The Mouse’s House is a rhyming story of short verses where each of the animal characters represents one of the important reflexes and as you read the story to your child you work the reflexes as the characters appear. The result is a simple but complete treatment.

Almost two years after the creation of The Mouse’s House I started writing the first parent course to supplement the material in the book and help parents understand the reflexology better in a workshop style environment. The book with the animal characters had given me the concept that I had felt was missing from a course in the first place. I added a few more reflexes to the course which meant coming up with more characters. I felt that this would add value and would allow me to create specific treatments for a variety of minor conditions of childhood.

The first courses went out in the autumn of 2014 and I was a nervous wreck! I felt pretty exposed standing in front of an audience and teaching my course for the first time….but the mums loved it! I received messages from the very first day telling me how the reflexology had worked for a variety of conditions that their children were suffering and they couldn’t wait for the next session. I ran three courses for one hour a week over six weeks. The youngest we had on a course was four days old and he was suffering from constipation – but not for long! Everyone got something out of the course and all of them have continued to give their children reflexology since with the beautiful handouts that they received and their own copy of The Mouse’s House, which make up a parent pack and which the children loved.

The feedback was fabulous and inspired me to continue, so after Christmas I began writing an instructors course. I realised that if I wanted this to reach the number of people that I was thinking of I would need more than me out there teaching it to parents. I had already been thinking about the concept of a website that would link the instructors to their courses and allow anyone anywhere to find an instructor in their area. I had been asking my husband, who is a programmer, if he could design such a website for me and in January he started to work on what we have now. A large part of the instructor business is based online with lots of marketing materials and the Google Earth link to the site. So we had a way of instructors reaching their parents and telling the world that they were here.

One of the most important factors for me in creating TCRP was empowering parents. I wanted to bring the powerful effects of reflexology to them in a simple fun package that they could utilise anywhere and at any time. So now that I was writing an instructor course I thought about what I wanted to achieve from this course and again I wanted to be able to empower parents. I thought about the baby massage business model where there is no pre-requisite to be a massage therapist to train and I thought how wonderful it would be to be able to offer parents, mothers in particular, the option of having a sustainable, ethical business that they could work at alongside their parenting and which would be holistic and positive in supporting other families in such a beneficial way. Having seen mothers who’d had to go back to work, leaving their baby when they didn’t want to, it felt great to be able to give them another option, as a long term business plan or for a short time until they were ready to resume a career.

For me this was a huge thing. I felt that I was breaking many rules. As far as I was aware, in this country, all infant reflexology courses were taught by qualified reflexologists and mine would be the first to change this ideology. It wasn’t just parents that I wanted to offer this training to. Baby massage teachers, baby yoga teachers indeed anyone who worked or had a healthy interest in helping parents and their children would be able to train as an instructor.

By March I was pretty much done. The coursework was beautiful and there was lots of it! All the reflexology was wonderfully simple, clear and most importantly engaging. All the reflexology protocols had been carefully created by a professional reflexologist and the marketing material was all to a very high standard.

On a whim, in March, I published details of the first course – just to see what the reaction would be – and I got an instant response from several people. The first course ran in April and was a great success and a huge amount of fun. As I was aware that being the focus of attention wasn’t my favourite thing I built in lots of things for the students to do to draw it away from me. So much came out of this first course. Once you create something new it is often surprising how many different avenues can open up. The second instructor course ran in June and this enabled me to apply for approval from the Association of Refelxologists in the UK. I sent all the course work off, feeling very nervous about what they would say in regards to the not needing to be qualified to train. I have to admit to being quite flabbergasted by their response! They loved it and wanted to approve it but wanted me to make a couple of small changes – mostly in relation to teaching the reflexology to trained reflexologists, which was fair enough. I now have approval and the good news is that reflexologists only need to do two of the normal three days’ training.

I have lots of courses planned and have been in close contact with many wonderful reflexologists around the country who are helping me to set up all sorts of new initiatives with this concept. There are a lot of areas opening up that I had never really thought of and whole new concepts coming out of this one too.

I have also continued to write books and have written two more and am half way through a third for older children. Writing has become my passion and empowering parents through reflexology my mission. I really hope that infant reflexology can become as mainstream, accepted and appreciated as baby massage – but let’s not take forty years to make it happen this time!

Susan Quayle is an experienced reflexologist and complementary therapist who has developed her skills and qualifications to specialise in the areas of fertility, maternity, babies and children. Susan has created and developed ‘The Children’s Reflexology Programme’, which uses her guide The Mouse’s House. The course has been approved by the Association of Reflexologist. To find out more, including dates and venues across the UK, please visit www.kidsreflex.co.uk.

Susan lives in Devon, UK and her clinic is based in Exeter and at her home, she now spends much of her time empowering parents with reflexology through her innovative books and courses.

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Four day old asleep

A revolution in understanding pain – interview with the author of ‘Pain is Really Strange’

Haines-PainIsReallyStrange

 

 

 

In this interview Steve Haines, author of Pain is Really Strange, discusses the topic of pain, he explains the reasons behind his choice to write a book about it using the graphic medium and tells us what people can do to manage pain.

Read the edited interview here:

Why do a book on pain?

There’s an awful lot of pain around. There was a huge survey done in Europe: 1 in 5 people experience chronic pain. They have persistent or severe pain for more than six months. For many of them, the median time was a number of years.

People manage large amounts of pain. Pain is a universal human experience; everybody knows what pain is.

The really exciting news is that there is a revolution in how we understand pain. The goal of the book is to try and explain that. How pain works is actually a little bit counterintuitive, a little bit strange. Some of the things that people think cause pain actually turn out to be not quite as central as folklore would have it.

Why do a graphic book on pain?

Education is a central tool in changing pain. The goal of using images it to make it light and really accessible. A good image can communicate an argument and idea very quickly. The book emerged from lots of lectures and talks I’ve given over the years. I have been endlessly trying to find creative ways of explaining how pain works to my clients and students.

I was incredibly lucky to meet Sophie Standing. I have really enjoyed how she’s visualized the work. She surprised me sometimes about how she took an idea that I’d been familiar with for a number of years and just showed it in a very different way.

I think that graphic novels can be very powerful tools. Pain Is Really Strange is short and sweet, 36 pages, but there’s an awful lot of information packed into the book. The images try and really crystallize ideas into something simple.

 Who is the book aimed at?

The book is for everybody. Everybody experiences pain, and I think everybody can learn from the new science. The current research can really help us change our idea and experience of what pain is, even really difficult chronic pain.

I would offer that everybody should be able to stand, walk, sit, and sleep, without issues. You might not be able to run a marathon anymore, and you might not have the best tennis serve that you had when you were in your 20s, but ordinary movements of sitting, standing, walking, lifting your shopping; it’s actually often possible to get people to a place where they can do those everyday functions with ease reasonably quickly. That makes a huge change in happiness and vitality

What is the central message of the book?

There is something that you can do to change your pain experience. There’s always a change in behaviour, a change in how you think, feel, move that can be used to creatively stimulate your brain to do something different.

The really central message is: think of pain as a bad habit or an alarm system that has gone wrong. Short-term it was very useful, but long-term chronic pain serves very little purpose. We can unlearn the pain habit. We can train our nervous system to respond differently to the information that’s coming in.

What is the hardest thing to explain about pain?

By saying: “Pain involves the brain,” people often feel that you’re saying that it’s their fault. That’s really not what I am saying. I like to talk about the mind, the brain, and the body. The mind is our consciousness, our awareness, our sense of self. The brain is in between the mind and the body. Pain is an output from the nervous system, not an input.

The brain can make mistakes. It gets into habits or reflexes. Evolution has taught us to respond to the threat of danger very, very quickly, and sometimes in those quick responses, we go down fixed, hard-wired, old patterns that are hard to break out of. But, and this is the important bit, reflexes and habits are responsive to new learning; we can learn to respond differently.

There’s no one answer to pain. For me that’s very exciting, but it can feel overwhelming and confusing. It implies that creativity, learning to do things differently, is possible. A complex nervous system will benefit from a multitude of responses. Culture, society, family, stress, how we eat, emotion and metabolic activity in our body are all deeply relevant to the pain experience.

What can people do to manage pain?

Mostly, it’s about being creative. Do something different. Whatever you’ve been doing, if you’re still in pain, it’s not working. Try a new approach. We can move differently, understand differently, feel differently, describe ourselves differently. The book explores some simple hints about how we might do those things, but the essence is change and creativity in response to the danger signal, and not going down fixed, hard-wired responses.

Understand that reflexes that were useful when you really needed to protect the tissues as they repaired are no longer useful after the tissues have repaired. Tissue repair takes no more than a few months. In chronic pain the nervous system needs recalibrating.

For me, the book is a very hopeful book; there is something you can do to change your pain experience. Pain isn’t about tissues. It’s about an alarm system in the nervous system that’s exaggerated and is no longer accurate about the state of the tissues.

Steve Haines, June 2015

Or listen to the full interview here. Linda from Singing Dragon asked Steve Haines some questions…

Steve Haines has been working in healthcare for over 25 years and as a bodyworker since 1998. He is the co-author of ‘Cranial Intelligence’ and author of the short graphic books ‘Pain Is Really Strange’ and ‘Trauma Is Really Strange’. Understanding the science of pain and trauma has transformed his approach to healing. He has studied Yoga, Shiatsu, Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, and Trauma Releasing Exercises (TRE). He is a UK registered Chiropractor and teaches TRE and Cranial work all over the world. His treatments now use education, embodied awareness and light touch to help people move more freely and be more present. Steve lives and works between London and Geneva. 

Treatments: www.stevehaines.net Teaching TRE: www.trecollege.com Teaching Cranial: www.bodyintelligence.com Graphic Books: www.painisreallystrange.com

 

 

 

Choosing Essences for yourself

Lilly_Essence-Practit_978-1-84819-250-8_colourjpg-printby Sue Lilly, author of The Essence Practitioner: Choosing and using flower and other essences

Many of us visit practitioners if we want essences, but some of us have our own essence collections and need effective ways to choose essences for personal use. For essence practitioners for instance there is always the question of how to best choose essences for yourself. Choosing for oneself is always an interesting exercise: trying to overcome the biases of our conscious mind and our underlying unconscious predilections so that we can actually choose essences that can be helpful for more than just superficial issues.

The traditional method of choosing, often called ‘pattern matching’ or the ‘logical method’, compares the qualities of the essences, as described by a producer or author, with the symptoms, emotions or thoughts that are being experienced. Depending on what has been written about an essence it may be possible to make a choice for an aspiration or a final goal. The advantage of this method is that anyone can work in this way. The disadvantage is that it relies on the capability of the individual to be able to identify – or reflect on – personal symptoms, emotions or thoughts without being influenced by his or her own judgment.

Moreover the descriptions of essences are limited to what the producer or author has written. No matter how many carefully written words, it is only going to describe a fraction of what the essence is capable of doing when interacting with a person or an animal. So this method of choosing essences for their own personal situation has limitations.

Another method of choosing essences for oneself is by pendulum dowsing or self-testing (muscle-testing). However, unless precautions are taken, the accuracy of these methods can be undermined and over-ridden by the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind. The power of these areas of our being can influence those choices that are often accepted gratifyingly by the conscious mind, as these choices appear to confirm our dominant beliefs and wishes. The types of steps that need to be taken to improve accuracy are grounding, or anchoring, personal energies and centring personal energies. Grounding can be simply imagining roots growing out of the feet, deep down into the Earth. Being dehydrated or very hungry can impair the ability to ground personal energies and to keep a good connection with the planet. The simplest way of centring is by ‘tapping in’.  Here the person does a firm, light tapping with the fingertips on the area of the upper chest just below where the collarbones (clavicles) meet the breastbone (sternum). This is the approximate placement of the thymus gland, an important maintainer of the subtle energy balance in the body. Whilst the thymus is being tapped, the other hand is placed palm open, over the navel. This allows the centring effect to last longer.

The methods above are adequate for choosing essences for oneself, but it is very useful, when treating someone close to you emotionally, to have a few more methods that can also divert the conscious mind and the other dominant areas of the brain.

Here are some examples. Make a list of numbers that correspond to the number of essences you have available. Then enter the name of those essences randomly to create a list. With the situation you want help with in mind this list of numbers can then be dowsed or muscle-tested for help with a particular personal issue without the list itself present and without input from the conscious mind. Personally I find this method works really well. The emerging essence or essence combinations brings surprising good results.

Another method is to create some small cards and write the name of an essence on each one. Then, placing them face-down, with the situation you want help with in mind, choose from the cards.

It could be easy to dismiss methods like these as having no use. However, it is easy for our conscious minds to ignore or belittle the depth of knowledge within us, and the access to knowledge of which our unconscious mind is capable. After all, our conscious mind is in charge, isn’t it? If we really want to get to the underlying causes of ill health, remove sabotaging thoughts or release toxic emotions we have to go beyond our everyday levels of consciousness and find ways to access the vast storehouse of knowledge of our unconscious mind.

When working as a practitioner, with a client, it is easier to stay detached and thereby have easy access to deep levels of consciousness. However, when working on ourselves or on those close to us, it is almost impossible to gain a similar level of detachment using methods we would use for clients.

I would suggest trying the ‘number’ or ‘card method’ without expectation and indeed, maybe with a playful approach for issues you want to resolve for yourself and see what happens!

Sue Lilly is the author of The Essence Practitioner: Choosing and using flower and other essences, she has been involved in many aspects of healing for over thirty years. She has a wide ranging experience as a therapist and  teacher – Flower Essences, Crystal Therapy, Astrology, Yoga, Meditation, Colour Therapy, Nutrition, Spiritual Development and Counselling. Sue is a qualified teacher and holds a Diploma in Clinical and Creative Supervision. She is an Advanced Practitioner and Tutor with the British Flower and Vibrational Essences Association (BFVEA), the Secretary of the British Association of Flower Essence Producers (BAFEP), joint Life President of the Affiliation of Crystal Healing Organisations (ACHO) and joint chair of the Japanese Crystal Healing Institute (JCHI). She has developed and produced Sovereignty Essences which complement the Green Man Essences created by Simon Lilly in 1991. She lives near Llangammarch Wells, Powys, Wales, UK.

Summer energy urges us to get moving

Summer begins in early May according to the lunisolar calendar. Both the lunar phases and the solar year are combined in this traditional calendar used in many Asian cultures. Seasons are determined by the amount of sunlight striking a particular region of the earth. The months of May, June and July have the greatest amount of solar radiation in the northern hemisphere with the summer solstice being the midpoint of the season. Therefore, to get maximum benefit, we should begin our summer qigong practice in early May 2015.

Excerpt from Qigong Through The Seasons by Ronald H. Davis:

“Summer energy urges us to get moving. We want to be outside more often, we wear fewer clothes, and are in closer contact with nature. We like to spend time in joyful physical recreation and gatherings with friends. Summer stimulates creativity, which we may express with building projects, designing gardens, making music, art objects, and party decorations—anything that gives us warm pleasurable connections to people and outdoors adventures. During this season of splendor and shining fire, the energy of nature grows outward with color, warmth, and radiance. Now our Spirit comes alive with expansive awareness; it wants to make intimate contact with all the elements of heaven and Earth.

During the Fire Phase we feel that our Heart Qi, which was fueled by the Rising Yang Qi of spring, has come into full bloom with expressions of joy, compassion and a mysterious yearning for divine contact. The exuberance of fire, when controlled and cultivated, can be refined and directed toward the ultimate purpose of being human: spiritual awakening. However—if not properly harnessed—the great blazing of summer’s Supreme Yang Qi can scorch our Heart and mind. Summer Qigong practice will show you how to feed the Heart Network without getting burned.”

Qigong Through The Seasons presents a complete program of qigong exercises, specific meditations, foods, and tonic herbs that will keep you naturally healthy during the exciting summer season. Based on the author’s thirty years of clinical practice, personal training, and public teaching, this fully illustrated book will show you how to harmonize with the ever-changing energy of the natural world.

Master your technology or it will master you

Noel Plaugher shares insight into the martial arts exercise featured in his new book, Standing Qigong for Health and Martial Arts – Zhan Zhuang, and encourages readers to be more present in the moment.

“My book is about a still form of exercise that incorporates mind and body, and I hope that aside from the physical, readers will take heart and embrace the idea of being in the present. It sounds cliché but it seems all of us are involved in everything but the world in front of us.

In our hectic and busy lives we forget that there must be moments where we stop for a time and look around us, or simply close our eyes and be in the present. I am not talking about having a full blown meditation on a commuter train, although what the heck, you may want to try it. I try often to do this, to have these small moments (not full blown meditation on a commuter train) as I work extraordinary hours and small breaks are nirvana to me. Even for a minute or two I have found it beneficial to walk outside look at the sun and sky, take a deep breath, and think about what is happening at this moment in time. It seems like the enemy for these moments are those devices which were sold to help us save time and make things easier. I haven’t really seen that materialize. Have you?

I am disappointed that all of the science fiction movies and TV I watched as a kid that painted such a rosy picture of the future, didn’t happen the way they described. I don’t mean the flying cars, which I guess, will never happen, I mean the promise of the ease of daily activities. The one thing I noticed in science fiction was that no one was ever in a hurry. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Dr. Floyd is briefing the others on the space station, they were completely relaxed. They were talking about other life in the universe and they could have been discussing color swatches for interior décor. “Open the pod bay doors, Hal,” And this is when Bowman is facing death in the vacuum of space! Sure, Star Wars has some excitement, but they are shooting lasers at each other. I don’t see that I have more leisure time because of technology, and that machines are doing things for me, so I can relax on the couch. Like most people I have ended up serving the machine! Now we work everywhere. Is that an advantage? Only to the work, I think.

We are all tethered to devices that are merciless task masters. ‘Ding!’ There is a text! ‘Swoosh!’ That is the email asking about the text. ‘Swoosh!’ There is that Facebook post from the kid who sat in back of me in high school. He found me on Facebook and now I look at his posts of his family vacation and ‘like’ pictures out of some kind of bizarre obligation. ‘Ding’ a text reminding me about something that I didn’t forget, but the text requires that I respond so that the other person doesn’t get offended. Now I insert the proper emoticon and…’Swoosh’ email arrives notifying me about a picture of a plate of food that someone thinks is incredibly important. With the internet, you can read just about everything ever written by Joseph Conrad, but we use it to send pictures of plates of food. For some reason we do all of this while life is streaming by and we give it barely a notice. What the heck!

These devices are so insidious they have wrapped their tentacles around our children as well. (or did we do the wrapping?) We are often found staring stoop shouldered at our palm size czars while our children are enthralled by a screen encompassing their entire field of vision, and we all MUST HAVE IT! What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Look at this device! Look at all the things it does! Perhaps we need to be asking if we need it to do all of these things.

I have stood talking to people looking at a phone, with earphones in their ears, and they have told me: ‘Don’t worry, I’m paying attention to you.’ Really? I beg to differ. Two of their senses are occupied and tasting me is out of the question.

Usually, we think of the phone or other device as our connection to the world, when in fact it is the exact opposite: It is our disconnection from the world. The world is happening in front of us and all around us. Do we even notice? Often I am criticized for not taking pictures of events. But I refuse to do it. I don’t want to document my life for myself or anyone else. I want to experience and live it. Not to mention the fact that I don’t think my life is all that interesting to anyone but me. A few events, may be worthy of note, but a daily dose of minutiae?

So are we disconnected? How disconnected can we be? Laws have had to be passed so that we don’t type one fingered messages to others while driving a one ton death machine on a public road! Now THAT is disconnected.

So what do we do? I don’t suggest turning your back on technology. That is unreasonable. I only think we need to be prudent in its use. Give attention to what is important, and realize that what you give your attention to, whether we realize it or not, is what is most important to you at that moment. Once when I was pushing my son on a swing and checking my email on my phone, I realized that what I was looking at was the most important thing to me at that moment. That really struck me, so I put it away and when I am interacting with my son I make sure I give him the same attention I demand of him.

What about emergencies? Let’s face it if we ever only used our devices for emergencies they would be dusty and full of cobwebs. If we put them away for a moment nothing will happen. Sadly, we all must realize that we are not as important as we think we are, and we are really only important to those close to us. How often do we give our time and attention to others at the expense of the ones that care about us?

So what do we do? There are small things we can do, and I have provided some suggestions below. However, having an overall awareness of the fact that we are making choices is important. We are not helpless, unless we choose to be.

These are some things that I have found useful.

  • When you are by yourself, periodically, at least once a day, turn off your phone, or at least the volume, and be alone with your thoughts. If you have to ask what you should think about, do this more often than you were originally planning.
  • Require full attention of those that interact with you. No checking texts while speaking with you. No glancing to see if anything came in. I have instituted a “walk away” policy for myself. If when speaking with someone they choose to do other things, so do I.
  • Do the same as above for others. (How often did I catch myself doing this stuff? Too often.)
  • Look in the night sky and try to find a constellation of any kind.
  • Look at the daytime sky and observe the clouds or anything that is there.
  • Stop and think about how you are right now. What do you feel?
  • If you don’t like your child spending so much time on a device, then make it stop.
  • Breathe deeply by inhaling for a count of 5 and exhaling for a count of 5.
  • Choose to use technology to make your life easier and realize that nothing is an emergency but an emergency.

When I was writing my book I tried to talk about being present, as standing qigong is definitely something that helps cultivate this practice, but I wouldn’t want someone to think that they can’t simply start being present immediately. I hope you read my book and the others that are coming. Now, turn off your ringer and try the suggestion where you take in a breath for a count of 5 and then exhale for a count of 5. Do it now. Breathe in: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Great! Now, without holding your breath, breathe out for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. There, that is it. Look around you. Look up, look down. This is where you are. Doesn’t that feel good? This is where you are.”

Breathe in, Breathe out

The practice of yoga has many forms—postures practiced on a mat, intentionally shaping our thoughts and words and actions in ways that are beneficial to us and others, breathing fully most of the time, and working at being our best selves, which is sometimes harder than it may seem. How you create, share, make your space, live, and express yourself on a daily basis, is at the center of the practice of yoga.

By slowing down our breath and observing how we feel (our body, our energy, our state of mind), we can influence how we experience what is happening to us, around us, and discern our role within it. Good, bad, and gray in-between spaces have the potential to become something quite different, depending upon how we perceive them and view them in our mind’s eye, which most often emanates from how we are already feeling (on the inside). Ever notice when you are in a bad mood, it seems like you come in contact with nasty seeming people and other hindrances to your positive progression? Likewise, when you are feeling good, do you notice more people smiling at you when your eyes meet? Are you more aware of the happy coincidences that seem to fall like mountains at your feet?

Have you noticed what happens to your breathing when you are emotionally disturbed—upset, frightened, surprised, unhinged, sad? Often it gets shallow, short, and it can feel like you are inhaling and exhaling jagged puffs of air. Sometimes for a moment or two, you might stop breathing all together, like when you are concentrating deeply or taken by surprise. How do you breathe when you feel restful, relaxed, and carefree? It almost feels like there is an endless supply of air that flows like a gift, like mystery, in and out of your lungs, in and out of your body. Your breath might be slow and long, it might even undulate your belly gently.

When you are distracted or disconnected from yourself—who you perceive yourself to be within your roles, relationships, and responsibilities—there is no way you can relax, get calm, or feel peaceful. At its core, your yoga practice has the potential to connect you more fully to the stillness always inside of you.

Right now, where you are, begin to practice yoga by watching your breath for a few rounds of breathing: inhale, exhale, breathe in, breathe out. Where does your breath move in your torso, your chest, your rib cage, your belly? How does your breath feel as it flows in and out of your lungs? Are you consciously making yourself breathe or does it feel like your body is breathing you? Spend some quality time with your inhalation and exhalation; can you climb on them as they go up and down, can you lift lighter and fly freer?

Now that you’ve spent time observing how you breathe, deepen your breath practice. Try to regulate how your breath flows, affects, and strengthens you with this Three-Part Breathing exercise from Yoga Girls’ Club: Do Yoga, Make Art, Be You.

Three-Part Breathing

  • You will divide your breath into three parts as you breathe into your belly (the bottom of your lungs), into your rib cage (the middle of your lungs), and into your chest (the very top of your lungs). This is a calming breath that you can practice anyplace, anytime.
  • Inflate your belly with breath, count: one, two. With the same breath, expand your rib cage, count: one, two. Same breath, fill (and feel) your chest with breath, count: one, two. Hold your breath in for a count of two.
  • Breathe out from the space of your chest count: one, two. Same breath, knit your ribs together as you empty them of air, count: one, two. Same breath, deflate your belly as you empty your lungs completely: one, two. Hold your breath out for a count of two.
  • For nine rounds of breathing, swell and deflate your belly like a balloon, feel your ribs expand and contract like an accordion, and experience your chest rising and falling like waves in the sea.

Release your influence on your breathing and return to your normal inhale and exhale. Watch your breath (in and out) for a few rounds. How do you feel now; your body, your energy, your mindset? As you practice being in the space of your breath, noticing how it feels, you are nourishing your body and quieting your mind, nothing outside of this space within you is necessary for you to relax, release, and create space for ‘you.’

Tiffani Bryant, PhD, is the author of Yoga Girls’ Club: Do Yoga, Make Art, Be You, an interactive workbook filled with easy-to-follow yoga postures, breathing practices, meditation techniques, and opportunities for self-reflection through making stuff that matters.

Yiquan General Standard Requirements

In this extract from Tang_Complete-Book-o_978-1-84819-225-6_colourjpg-webThe Complete Book of Yiquan, Master C S Tang outlines the essential requirements of the Yiquan stance. Detailed images of hand shapes, leg shapes and body shapes illustrate the how to practice the static stance as a whole. Training involves not only poses, but also controlling the joints and muscles, utilizing the tension and relaxation of weights.

Read the extract…

The book is the first complete guide to the rarely taught martial art, Yiquan, still shrouded in mystery. With clear photographs and explanations, this comprehensive illustrated book fully describes the postures and movements of Yiquan and provides information on Yiquan’s origin, weapons, programs, grading, and more.

Shōnishin – The Art of Japanese Acupuncture Without Needles

What is ShōniOppenheimer-Wer_Shonishin_978-1-84819-160-0_colourjpg-webshin?

Shōnishin (from Japanese shōni = little child, shin = needling) is a non-invasive method of acupuncture which was developed in Japan for pediatric treatment around 100 years ago. Instead of using needles there are different tools and instruments. They are used for rubbing and tapping on certain reflex zones and meridian areas, as well as on acupuncture points for gentle stimulation along the torso and the extremities.

The therapeutic effect of Shōnishin is to regulate and support the specific development of children, especially the central and autonomous nervous systems. Therefore the treatment is very effective, especially for children with different disharmonies or illnesses from birth to school age. As Shōnishin has no side effects and is absolutely painless, this kind of treatment is made-to-measure for the needs, complaints, and illnesses of babies and children.

Other client groups who can benefit from Shōnishin

Shōnishin is being used as an alternative to acupuncture in women’s shelters, mother-child facilities and nurseries. This aids women and children, who are in difficult social or monetary situations, abandoned and without any obvious way out. This includes traumatized women and children (e.g. survivors of rape), who are only able to permit touching via the “interposed” Shōnishin instrument where no skin-to-skin contact happens.

Another field of application for Shōnishin will be in the treatment of older adults. Particular parameters like skin conditions and mental conditions seem to show retrogression into childhood. First experiences with Shōnishin in homes for the aged show promising treatment approaches. Even here it becomes obvious, that treatment with a Shōnishin instrument is advantageous as older adults often suffer from a shortage of caring touch. With Shōnishin the contact doesn’t take place directly, but indirectly with an instrument. Thus, older adults have no fear of contact and are willing to allow the treatment. Yet another advantage of treating elderly people with Shōnishin is that as many of them have to take blood-thinning medicines, with the non-invasive and gentle treatment technique with Shōnishin, there is no contraindication.

Training in Shōnishin

Training in Shōnishin varies a lot in the way it is done outside Japan. In Germany there are trainers who offer one-day courses. This, of course, entails the risk that therapists with minimal training could bring Shōnishin into public disrepute if they treat children outside their own household.

As a member of the Japanese Scientific Association of Acupuncture for Children (Nihon Shōni Hari Gakkai), my main aim in running courses is to set a high quality standard in the interest of both small and older children. My courses are based on current traditional Japanese medicine research and on Western health sciences on the other.

Knowledge on child development from both Western and Eastern points of view are an essential lesson of the course. Shōnishin training is best acquired after a basic training in a meridian therapy (e.g. acupuncture, Tuina or Shiatsu) and a minimum six days course. Since, ultimately, children are going to be treated, the motor and sensory aspects of child development in the first 12 months of life are taught, as is energetic development. The most important thing is to understand how the meridians develop, and their influence on child development and development in later life.

Theoretical Basics of Shōnishin

I have based my training of Shonishin upon my nearly 30 years’ experience of working with children. My wife, Karin, initially trained as a physiotherapist and and went on to study shiatsu in Japan. In 1985, she and I founded an institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine just outside Frankfurt, Germany. Karin teaches baby and child shiatsu internationally and is a Founder of the German Shiatsu Society. She has written a number of books on the subject, including Children at Their Best and Baby Shiatsu.

Together, we have developed a modShonishin2el of energetic development that can serve as the theoretical foundation for Shōnishin. It is the basis for understanding child development in its energetic aspect, and ultimately for diagnostic and therapeutic processes that depends on the stages of development.

The model of energetic development is an attempt to bring the knowledge of modern neuroscience, developmental psychology and developmental physiology into harmony with the knowledge and experience of oriental medicine.

The model states that each energetic stage of motor and sensory development builds on the previous developmental stage. The meridians play a primary role in this and represent a communications network connecting the child with her external world. They are then also responsible for the child’s development of posture, movement, patterns of behavior and personality.

Knowing about the ways motor, sensory and energetic functioning are interwoven, opens up new perspectives on child development, resulting in specific treatment approaches. Ultimately, it is the knowledge of meridians in developmental stages forms the foundation for treatment of children of all ages with Shōnishin.

 

Shonishin Training with Thomas Wernicke in the UK:
3 day course as part of the 6 day Shonishin Training with Thomas Wernicke:
When: Saturday 30th May to Monday 1st June 2015
Where: Edinburgh
Cost: Early Bird booking by 31st March 2015 £235, full cost thereafter £260
For more information and to book your place (places limited to 12 people) contact:
Svenja Schaper, Shiatsu Practitioner, Dip. BSS, MRSS, PGCE
svenjashiatsu@movingtouch.co.uk mobile: 07842 563 298

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Thomas Wernicke is a licensed General Practitioner with qualifications in complementary medicine, Chinese and Japanese acupuncture, as well as manual therapies including craniosacral therapy and osteopathy for adults, children and babies, psychosomatic therapy and homeopathy. He is a member of the Japanese Scientific Society for Shonishin, and since 2004, he has been the Training Manager for Daishi Hari Shonishin in Europe. Thomas is also Founding Member and President of the International Society for Traditional Japanese Medicine. He lives in Hochheim, Germany. He has written Shonishin: The Art of Non-Invasive Paediatric Acupuncture publishing by Singing Dragon.

 

Developing internal energy for enhancing your healing practice

Solos_Developing-Inte_978-1-84819-183-9_colourjpg-webIt is a common theory in all the Chinese internal styles that the qi of the dantian must reach the tips of the fingers, although, how this is accomplished may differ majorly among different arts. The purpose is to make the strikes felt deep within the opponent’s body without damaging your hands. The training of such a skill, besides the internal cultivation practices, usually involves some form of punching or hitting to strengthen the ligaments of the hands, and also to make the hits (and touch) soft, powerful and precise, able to reach deep inside.

Crossing over to healing, such a skill is also very important, because in your tuina you need to protect the health of your hands from harm, and in acupuncture also ensure that you have the correct kind of energy that reaches deep inside the patient’s body to activate the points and channels.

The best tuina manuals usually offer some Neigong exercises designed to cultivate the right skill. Most of them include rigorous meditation while the hands work on a sand bag or a variety of other equipment. However, even such important skills become quite rare these days, because it may take some time to acquire them.

 

But let’s see some old exercises:

Exercise example 1: A traditional old Beijing Tuina method for teaching the hand method for the character for grasping (拿) was as follows:

“A small bucket of water was immersed inside a bigger bucket of water. The handle of the smaller bucket was attached through a leather cord to the outstretched hand of the practitioner, palm facing down. During this exercise the student had to sink the Qi to the Dantian, and then by using the round force (浑圆劲) of the whole body pull the bucket out of the water and then insert it back into the bigger bucket, without any spillage. After achieving the comfort force and the ability to assume a balanced and energy conserving posture, they would have to start meditating upon the character for grasping (拿) for the hands and rise and sink (沉-浮) for the body. Most of this exercise is happening first mentally and then physically. Movement should be soft and focused.”

Exercise example 2: This is an exercise used for the method of hitting (打) the back of the patient by using a split bamboo stick. For this skill, if the amount and type of force is not correct, it can result to damaging the muscles, skin and ligaments of the patient. An old Beijing exercise for this was as follows:

“The doctor assumes the Hun Yuan position, holding a split bamboo stick, or a Taiji long ruler, or just merely visualizing holding one. The Qi sinks to the Dan Tian, and the doctor relaxes every part of his body, until achieving a feeling of being suspended up from strings attached to the body, much like a puppet. The doctor should visualize being inside a Great Balloon that has its center in the Dantian. The outer walls of this “Great Balloon” have many hooks and barbed wire, which prevents it from moving towards any direction. The doctor however, should try to mentally move it by using his intention (意) but not any physical force, while working out all the related energetic contradictory forces (矛盾力) within his body frame. While moving the sphere with the power of the Dantian, the stick always follows the movement of the whole body, but never leads or dictates the direction. At the point (点) where the movement of the whole body stops and changes direction, the doctor should be meditating on developing the correct snapping force that is needed in hitting the back of the patient with the split bamboo stick. Most of this exercise is happening mentally, rather than physically. Movement should be soft and slight.”

 

In a similar way, internal cultivation for acupuncture needling should have a specific healing purpose, direct effect and an exact training methodology, based on appropriate understanding and application of Chinese energetic theories and correct body mechanics. This training should be primarily and directly applied towards treatment, exclusively in the clinic, as an unambiguous and solid therapeutic skill, where rational theory can be coupled with reasonable and consistent benefits, for both the healer and the patient.

In my latest book, Developing Internal Energy for Effective Acupuncture Practice I have included a complete training regime for assisting the energy aware practitioners to enhance their needling skills and transform their medicine into an extraordinary experience. With time and effort, perhaps one can discover the fine subtleties of the system at the energetic level.

Disclaimer: This article provides only simplified instruction for the above exercises, and purely for the sake of theoretical discussion. You should not attempt any of these without professional guidance from a certified teacher. The author of this article and the owner of this blog are not responsible for any harm that may be inflicted through the erroneous application of the information provided in this article.

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Ioannis Solos studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at Middlesex University and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. He enjoys researching, teaching, practicing and critically interpreting the ancient philosophy and culture of China, internal martial arts, health preservation practices, classic medical texts and lesser-known Chinese esoteric traditions.

5 thoughts from Nora Franglen

Franglen_On-Being-a-Five_978-1-84819-236-2_colourjpg-webIn this extract from On Being a Five Element Acupuncturist, master acupuncturist Nora Franglen shares her thoughts on how much she hates “the placebo effect”, allowing the elements to surprise us, how to deal with “Aggressive Energy”, bringing acupuncture back to China, and a remarkable difference between two elements.

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The book is based on her widely-read blog about the wholeness of life as a Five Element practitioner. Nora Franglen’s breadth of interest shows how the curiosity and life experiences of the individual lie at the heart of what makes a true acupuncturist, over and beyond the necessary knowledge and expertise in the technicalities of practice. From her penchant for coffee shops to reflections on challenges she has experienced in the clinic, Nora illustrates how the Five Elements influence, illuminate and, ultimately, enrich all aspects of her life, and vice versa.