san francisco

What Autumn Holds for You

Seasonal change isn’t instant. Especially here in the Bay Area, it’s gradual. 1 step forward, 2 steps back, until it isn’t. It takes a special focus to notice it as it shifts. We may yet get our warm Late Summer days that often show up in late September/ October, but Autumn has already been happening. There’s that chill in the air. A certain crispness. A lot of complaints of dry throats.

My favorite tree on the Vassar Farm (Oct 2003)

My favorite tree on the Vassar Farm (Oct 2003)

Eastern Medicine takes its cues from the natural world. As it is in nature, so is it in our bodies and emotional landscapes. Spring and Summer both have an energy of new growth and expansion. There’s a fullness and flourishing. In Autumn, we start to draw back into the interior.

There are five elements (sometimes also called Five Phases) in Eastern Medicine: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. The Five Elements have corresponding seasons, tastes, channels, energies, diseases, and so much more that there is an entire school of thought in Chinese Medicine defined by this focus.

Autumn is the Metal season. Metal cuts like a knife and holds like a copper cup, dividing and separating, creating boundaries. This season we ask, What do you need that you should keep hold of? What is not yours that you can release?

Classically in cultures around the world this is the season for harvesting. It’s a time to take stock of and appreciate the bounty the year has brought you. What have you accomplished? Be grateful and take pride.



The Metal meridians: Lung and Large Intestine

The emotion of the Lungs is Grief.
As we take stock in this season of our year and our lives, certain goals and accomplishments we may have set no longer serve us. They may be inaccessible or simply no longer appropriate. It’s ok to grieve that loss or change before moving forward. Once you’ve allowed yourself space to grieve, you can become clear and focused, paring back to the essentials to figure out what the new or important goals are and get them done. You can do it! There’s still time!

If you have lost someone or something this year or in this season, you may find that the grief feels larger or has resurfaced. That’s natural, but it doesn’t mean you have to feel it alone or that there isn’t a supportive therapy you can reach to, from speaking that grief with friends and family, to working with a trusted therapist, to seeking acupuncture to balance the emotions and meridians. Grief is a natural emotion, but it also shouldn’t be overwhelming forever. If it’s feeling unmanageable, please ask for help.

The corresponding emotion of the Large Intestine is Letting Go.
Don’t keep it in. Let that sh*t go!

Autumn’s climate is Dryness, which injures the Lungs.
There’s a danger of holding too much in, in that it can dry out and get stuck (sometimes literally, as constipation or dry phlegm). It’s important to keep your Lungs hydrated and strong as they govern your immune system. Lily bulb and pears are wonderful supporters of the Lungs.


My Fall recommendations:

  • Make sure your favorite sweater is within reach and put the kettle on

  • Always carry a scarf (aka make sure your neck is covered)

  • Stock up on pears (amazing just as they are or steamed, baked, or poached with ginger and honey)

  • Come in for acupuncture to address your emotional health and strengthen your immune system before you feel yourself coming down with a cold!


FOUND THIS INTERESTING? RELATED POSTS ON A CUPPA QI:

Treating Stress, Anxiety, and Depression with Acupuncture

Why is Chicken Soup Good for a Cold?

Stress Relief and the Pantone Color of the Year


ABOUT SHAWNA

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

Header and Pear Images: Unsplash

Joyful Movement

I had to contend with the question of how to get enough exercise only in the last few years (Photo: Stephen Texeira for LINES Dance Center)

For most of my life if you asked me to describe myself some of the first words out of my mouth would be, "I'm a dancer." I danced consistently from age 7 into my 30s, first jazz, then contemporary. As much as possible I arranged my work and graduate school schedules around dance. I joined a local company and performed to a paying audience. Then suddenly I couldn't anymore. Or not the way I had, anyway. Thanks to incorrect repetitive movements and a loss in the genetic lottery now sometimes dancing hurts (honestly, sometimes walking hurts too). And even though I've learned to adapt with better body mechanics and supportive footwear, even though most of the time it doesn't hurt anymore because of those changes (and of course regular acupuncture and moxibustion), I feel as though I'm always having to evaluate how I'm doing. I'm in my head instead of my body, thinking, "Is today an okay day? Should I be doing this step this way?" I can't just let go and move the way I used to.

The point of all of this is to say that I had to contend with the challenge of how to get enough exercise only in the last few years. And after trying a wide variety of activities I finally found my new movement obsession that I can complement with occasional yoga, dance, or weights: choreographed lightsaber combat.

Learning reverse grip combat with Saber Guild (Photo: Bianca Hernandez / KQED)

Yes, for those of you who don't yet know me well, I am a big giant nerd, which serves me well in collecting and reading a ton of relevant medical literature as well as adoring Star Wars maybe more than is healthy sometimes. I have been obsessed with the galaxy far, far away since I was assigned homework by my seventh grade science teacher to watch at least two of the original trilogy (what were then the only) films over the Halloween weekend. All three movies were on repeat on a TV channel all weekend and right away I was hooked. Thus a love affair with Star Wars, but also with astronomy and physics took hold. My awe and excitement in my teacher's follow-up lesson on binary star systems was just the beginning; it was one of the main reasons I took a summer trading off between mission control and space flight simulations at the Advanced Space Academy (the high school version of Space Camp) and why I wanted desperately to be an astronaut. Though that's unlikely now, I still maintain it's possible (NASA, call me. We need to study the beneficial effects of acupuncture in space)!

But back to exercise.

Enter an offhand comment this summer by a friend mentioning that there are Jedi exercise classes in San Francisco and my immediate decision to sign up. I was nervous to join a new community, but found them very welcoming and equally passionate. Finally a new form of choreographed exercise that builds on my love of dance, the acting, costumes, and character work I was missing from my days as a drama kid, exploring martial arts (something I'd always thought I would enjoy but never got around to), and of course getting to play around with a big glowing sword. And all this with that element I'd been missing at the gym and local yoga classes - a community. Having people who will be happy to see me when I arrive (light and fun, friendship) and bug me if I don't show up to practice (accountability) is essential. A major bonus has been getting to perform for audiences again as well! Perhaps you saw me as Finn at the California Academy of Sciences in December. My 2018 goal is to perform as Rey!

So why am I talking about this here? How does this relate to medicine and wellness?

Back in the day I had long hair and danced every chance I got. (photo: Paula Chang)

Our qi is vital energy. When our qi stagnates (gets stuck), that's when we get pain. At first it might be a dull pain and we feel just a bit tight, but eventually it sets in further and that's what we want to prevent with daily movement. Many of my active patients feel terrible when they haven't had their regular level of exercise. That dragging feeling is early stage qi stagnation. To make matters worse, stress also stagnates the qi. So when we're so busy we don't have time to exercise, you're in double trouble. All the more excuse to have a spontaneous dance party at your desk or at least do a few gentle breathing qigong exercises, which I can teach you.

My suggestion is to do something you love that happens to be good for you rather than forcing yourself to do what you think you’re “supposed” to do.

Finding the right form of exercise can be hard. My suggestion is to do something you love that happens to be good for you rather than forcing yourself to do what you think you're "supposed" to do. If you love going to gym and lifting weights because of how it makes you feel and also you get to listen to a pump up the jams mix on your phone go for it! But if you loathe it and can barely get yourself out of bed on gym days, it's time to find something else. Go for a long walk with a friend and use it as catch up time. Bonus if it's in a beautiful green location where the color of spring leaves can help soothe your Liver and promote the free-flow of qi. Walk the long way around your block to drop off a package, giving yourself more time with your favorite podcast. Find a YouTube yoga channel with a personality and pace that suits you. Throw on your favorite song and air guitar and jump around for 2 minutes. Save your knees and punch the air in as many directions as your range of motion allows. Maybe do those arm exercises your trainer gave you years ago, but skip the weights if it's too much (or use cans). My point is simply that you have to figure out what level of activity is sustainable, enjoyable, and effective for meeting the goals you have set for yourself. Think outside the box because exercise can and should be fun.

After you make movement a regular habit, then you'll find you want to slowly increase the difficulty, duration, and intensity. The most important part is doing something active regularly and having it become a seamless part of your lifestyle. So if getting more exercise is on your list of resolutions, think about what brings you joy, breathe, and let it move you. Every step toward better health counts.

Curious about joining a class?

Shawna is featured in a recent KQED news article about lightsaber choreography groups in the Bay Area. From Fitness to Fencing: Fans Learn How to Fight Star Wars Style

Lightsaber photos courtesy of Bianca Hernandez / KQED.

ABOUT SHAWNA

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

Joining Back to Life

Joining Back to Life

I'm thrilled to be joining the team at Back to Life Physical Therapy to offer my acupuncture services to their patients and to my community as a San Franciscan. Before I changed my career path to acupuncture I worked for a variety of design agencies, all in the SOMA area of San Francisco so returning to the neighborhood feels like the completion of a perfect circle.

I have known Amy Selinger of Back to Life for years, first as her patient, long before thinking I might go into healthcare myself, and later as she became a mentor in my pursuit of integrative medicine. She embodies the type of provider I aim to be: a true resource and a human ally in the pursuit of wellness. Her whole team is also rising to that bar. We're going to do great work together so I hope you'll join us at Back to Life for acupuncture and/or physical therapy.

Here is a glimpse of the Back to Life clinic: