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By West Norwood Therapies Team, May 16 2019 09:34AM

Acupuncturist Philippa summers considers the view from her allotment and how this interpretation of nature and environment mirrors Chinese medicine's approach to our bodies.



I have recently found an unexpected place of peace, tranquillity and contemplation in the heart of London. It is particularly beautiful at this time of year, with spring flowers, fruit trees in blossom and song birds in full chorus. Sitting on a hill above the worst of the pollution with spectacular far reaching views across the city, it is a world of discovery and unexpected surprises. Today we found lizards beneath some wooden boards. It’s an allotment, or rather a share of one, which is even better and far more manageable, in a stunning location close to Brockwell Park. I frequently use metaphors of nature, landscape and environment to illustrate the way that Chinese Medicine views the body. Working on the allotment has fuelled those ideas.


The allotment is quite different from my garden. More mess and earth, getting down and dirty in the soil, with plenty of muck involved. I’ve learnt a thing or too already from the other plot holders generously sharing tips on what grows well up there and how to improve the soil. It’s clay, which is rich in minerals but heavy, and by adding well rotted horse manure and straw the texture and drainage is improved. It feels good to look at the soil more closely, feel its texture rich in fat worms, and know the difference it will make to the health of the plants and the taste of the produce if the slugs don’t get there first.


The muck is like eating really good fresh vital food, as opposed to processed foods and vitamin pills, the equivalent of chemical fertilisers. An organic approach to gardening builds strength in the plants naturally so that they withstand pests, akin to having a healthy immune system. Nurturing and nudging health in positive directions through good nutrition, appropriate exercise, adequate rest and relaxation, affects how we feel in body, mind and spirit. Even when it comes to genetics, we now know that how we live influences which genes are switched on and off.


People often ask if acupuncture can help, such and such a condition. Of course, acupuncture is better suited to treating some things than others, but it is the bodily landscape that is at the heart of a Chinese Medical diagnosis and treatment, rather than the condition. The landscape - be it hot, cold, dry, damp, stagnant, depleted, etc - creates the conditions in which certain imbalances are more likely to arise and progress. The disease label is very often not as important as the landscape against which it has arisen. Two people with migraines may have very different types, arising from very different bodily landscapes and they will be treated differently. A landscape that gives rise to stomach pains in one person, may cause anxiety in another and the treatments may be very similar. So the landscape, rather than the disease label, is more important when it comes to treating with acupuncture and often has more influence on how easily a health issue will resolve. By addressing the imbalance people often find that their overall health and wellbeing improve, not just the issue that they sought treatment for.


Chinese Medicine sees the body as an interconnected whole, where every part of the body is interrelated, and each part exerts an influence on the whole. With climate change we can see just how delicately balanced and interdependent the whole planet is. This too is reflected in our small allotment, with its lizards, foxes and insect life. Our bodies are not so different, as an example I think of the influence that a healthy gut biome has on brain function.


I find the Daoist view, where the internal landscape of the body is influenced by the same forces that influence nature, to be enlightening, inspirational and nature is a great teacher, as well as a great healer. We often give priority to nurturing our physical health and we can do the same for our mental health and wellbeing. Being out in nature is a soothing counterbalance to the bustle of city life. I have found that tending the allotment and looking out over the view in quiet contemplation, or while hanging out with friends, is food for mind, body and soul, both literally and metaphorically. I certainly wouldn’t do it for economic reasons – at an hourly minimum wage it probably works out about £100 a spud!





By West Norwood Therapies Team, Apr 29 2019 07:29PM

Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares her fabulous experience massaging at the London marathon in aid of the NSPCC this year, we're proud of her efforts and enthusiasm :-)



Last year I volunteered with NSPCC, giving post event massage at the London Marathon 2018. It was such a fulfilling experience that this year I went back for more and I couldn’t wait to put my green t-shirt back on! As you can probably remember, 2018 was the hottest London Marathon ever recorded. Water stations started running out of water and medical teams had their busiest year treating heatstroke. This year already looked to be shaping up for a stark contrast on the weather front. With strong winds and heavy rain dominating the weather forecast, I prepared to massage some soggy windblown runners!


Waking up this morning to calmer winds and a nice fresh feel in the air might have tricked some runners into thinking they were still dreaming! Pretty ideal weather conditions for long distance running. So far so good. I was feeling positive as I walked through Trafalgar Square and looking forward to working with Chris and the team again. After a quick hip loosening demonstration, Chris talked about posture and how to maintain good form. It’s all about keeping that chest forwards and proud!


At around 12:45 we applauded the first runner into our massage area. There was then a slow trickle of runners for about half an hour before the trickle turned to a steady stream and all 20 massage therapists were working flat out to ease the aches and pains. The atmosphere in the room was absolutely buzzing; you could almost feel a physical energy to it. Congratulations and elations never ceased and every time someone came up to me, no matter how exhausted they were, they had a smile on their face and such a sense of pride in what they had just achieved. Not one person was moaning or grumbling about any pain they were in, their achievement seemed to lift them above it.


At events it is likely that you will be massaging through clothes and there are several techniques to achieve great results with this. One of them is simply compressions and you can even try these on yourself (mainly on the legs) after a hard training session, event or performance. Simply use the heel of your hand or make a fist and press down on the muscle using your other hand to create the force, holding the compression for 10 - 20 seconds. Vibrations can also be another useful tool, as well as pin and stretch – compressing a muscle when contracted and then slowly extending the muscle whilst keeping the compression; something I like to use on the hamstrings especially and it can be done passively or actively.

Conversations with the runners sometimes verged on hysteria due to adrenaline and exhaustion! However the main topic of the day was their appreciation for the overwhelming support they received: from the crowd, from the charity, from their friends and family and from us! Times didn't matter. They had just run 26 MILES. I chatted to one runner who was running a marathon for every month of the year...that’s 314 miles this year! What an incredible human feat let alone the amount of money raised for charities. The 500 runners for NSPCC today raised £1.1 million between them. What an amazing event to be part of.
Conversations with the runners sometimes verged on hysteria due to adrenaline and exhaustion! However the main topic of the day was their appreciation for the overwhelming support they received: from the crowd, from the charity, from their friends and family and from us! Times didn't matter. They had just run 26 MILES. I chatted to one runner who was running a marathon for every month of the year...that’s 314 miles this year! What an incredible human feat let alone the amount of money raised for charities. The 500 runners for NSPCC today raised £1.1 million between them. What an amazing event to be part of.

Even though it was a long and tiring day, I went home ecstatic and full of inspiration from everybody I had met, runners and volunteers alike. Just knowing that I had helped some of those amazing people in some way gave me my own sense of pride and achievement.


If you ever get the chance to volunteer with a charity at an event like the London Marathon, DO IT. You’ll find me massaging next at the Windrush Aquathlon on Sunday 30th June at the West Norwood Therapies stall. If you’re racing come and see me for some post event massage! If you’re there supporting, come and say hi to some of the team – we offer a whole range of complimentary therapies and classes.




By West Norwood Therapies Team, Mar 13 2019 11:30AM

Massage therapist and yoga teacher, Erika Zettervall, shared some thoughts on sleep and how such a simple thing can be so complex! And touches on yoga nidra - the holy grail of sleep...



A great part of our lifetime is spend sleeping - almost 1/3 provided we get 7-8 hours of it per night. We all know how good sleep is essential for maintaining health and good mood. Sleep plays crucial role in maintaining the nervous system (the brain in particular).


This week it is World Sleep Day highlighting the importance of sleep and there will be plenty advice and information around and good advice but as with everything it’s not what we know or the volume of information that makes the difference but how it is applied.


So simple and yet at times illusive, difficult and near impossible to attain. Just lay down close your eyes relax and drift off into sweet slumber.


In English we say fall asleep, implying a letting go. We also use the term dropping off when going to sleep, indicating a motion of fall and that how it often feels in the mind. Relinquishing control we trust we will wake up again (on time) and we that we can safely drop into the unknown where the subconscious can and will make itself heard and seen in the form of dreams.


Dreaming is fascinating, it can help you understand yourself, but can also be very intense, loud, vivid, frightening and disruptive. To ease and begin to understand deeper parts of my mind my therapist encouraged me to practice directing the dreams so that when becoming aware of dreaming, I began to direct the situation in the dream. This often happens without actually waking up and is so called lucid dreaming. I was also encouraged to go back to dreams after awakening from them and dropping back in and create a different outcome. It has the effect of softening and calming of the mind and therefore better sleep. The mind is powerful and the times when we can’t let ourselves fall into sleep or wake up (4am with a start), the possibility to let go from the grip of wakefulness is out of reach. Thoughts churning, we can end up tossing and turning searching in for the switch that allows us to loosen the grip and allow the sink/fall or drift back into sweet slumber. The more agitated we become sensory input appear sharper harder and/or louder and we can become hypersensitive, hypervigilant or hyperaroused. Us humans are wired to be on guard alert to dangers, this is necessary for survival and safe keeping. The problem for us is when it hijacks our minds unnecessarily and/or for prolonged times.


How do you improve the quality of sleep? Create routines and learn to relax would be my short answer.

Set the scene, take care of the physical space and body - regulate the intake of stimulants such as food (big meal near bedtime and type of food such spice and garlic), drinks (alcohol, coffee) and visual stimulus such as movie/television/or social media. Read in black and white or give the eyes a rest and listen to audio book.

Treat your bed and bedroom with respect and as the place for rest. Simple things such as making your bed every day and caring for sheets and bedding. Investing in good quality and looking after it you spend a lot of hours in bed after all. It set an intention of the importance of rest.


Create routines, keep bedtime but also keep set getting up time some say that is more important than going to bed. Lying-in is not great for establishing healthy sleep patterns or for making up lost hours of sleep. We humans like a rhythm respond well to regularity even if we tend celebrate impulsiveness in our society.

Soften sensory input from sound and light. Some sounds are hard to regulate living in a crowded city where people’s life goes on in close proximity. Softening can be achieved in form of textiles, insulation and white noise like a fan. When we think of light Black out curtains might be good, but if there is a small gap the light gets focused cutting though like laser beam through the room, so softening by a fabric or shutter that create shade light.

But then think of the content baby or pet or people for that matter to whom this does not matter they just switch off and sleep.


To switch off we need to relax. To relax deeply takes practice. Perhaps it shouldn’t be that way but I don’t think there is an exaggeration in saying most of us struggle with it. Tiredness and lack of sleep is very common and instead of rest ending up with a false relaxation that occur when we get stuck watching television or searching the internet, still feeding sensory input through our eyes and stimulating the brain.


I don’t think there is a better way to get better at relaxing than to practice Yoga Nidra. It’s very easy and accessible either through class (Emma does one weekly) or through apps (Sanctuary for example) or through internet. Yoga Nidra so called yogic sleep is not sleeping but systematic relaxation, which leads to deepest level of effortless awareness that’s possible where there is no judgement or movement in mind or thought and no mental chatter to accompanying experience. It’s the deepest level of rest with awareness. It’s methodology for relaxation and will lead you to sweet zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz














By West Norwood Therapies Team, Mar 8 2019 09:46AM

WNT founder Jennie Duck reflects on what it means to her to work with the Wonderful Women of WNT and how the tone of the team helps nurture the culture of the clinic and studio.


I hadn’t intended for West Norwood Therapies to become a formidable team of women. Formidable yes, but not only women. We have had a couple of men in the mix over the years, but as we head towards our 5th birthday this October we are 12 (wonderful) women.


And as International Women’s Day arrives I’m reflecting on what that means to me and find it is making me very grateful to have this gang around me.


Support

Support is a core value of WNT so any practitioner who flourishes in the team is a good example of support. Everyone has a sense that our emotional, physical and mental wellbeing matter and have an impact on how business goes. I attribute this to more of a female way of approaching life, but it must be boosted also by our vocations as therapists and teachers! Either way, supporting one another through challenging times helps us be stronger as a team.


Nourishment

Our monthly meetings are a precious time of coming together and we leave feeling nourished. It can be a time for sharing, for peer or business support, and sometimes just a time to connect with other women in a similar role who are all rather lovely, caring and funny :-)


Capability

These women are amazing! Everyone is pulled in different directions with varying commitments and pressures and everyone not only copes but flourishes. Our loyal band of clients, students and patients can testify to the level of professionalism and skill each practitioner brings to WNT and its an important core of what we offer – a high standard of client care.


Inspiration

We all bring something different to the table at WNT and this helps us practice with integrity and to be constantly evolving and learning in our professional environment. We inspire each other but we also let each other inspire us, an important distinction in strong team work.


Fun

Living in Scotland now it’s hard to socialise with the team as much, but I still call in for team meetings and come down for meetings and social events a few times a year and it’s always fun! There is a light heartedness that can be found in sincerity which I believe nurtures compassion and integrity – again these are integral to the values and goals of WNT.


All of this is especially important because the environment we create and nurture as a team sets the tone for our clinic and studio. We reflect on our values regularly and are conscious to practice with integrity in a very down to earth, human and warm way.


I love the team at WNT and I am proud to be part of this gang of Wonderful Women :-)








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