Acupuncturist and tui na massage therapist Mihaly Rosta shares some thoughts around how we process and store emotion, stress and experience in our bodies in this insightful blog
It is now becoming a mainstream concept that our psyche has a direct effect on our bodies (soma) and vica versa. However, most people still miss the chance to realise the ’cause and effect’ relation between their bodily suffering and their mental state.
Often when we feel vulnerable with slow self-esteem our posture collapses, our shoulders become rounded and our breathing turns shallow.
Likewise, when we feel stressed (threatened) our body naturally prepares for battle and starts using our muscular system as armoring. Unfortunately, our nervous system cannot make a differentiation between psycho-emotional and physical threats.
Whilst it is natural and necessary to experience stress, unfortunately, a lot of us (if not most of us) get trapped in a cycle of constant stress.
Whether that will manifest as a hyperactivated or “frozen” state of our nervous system, it will also directly affect our musculoskeletal system. Which in return leads to misalignment, shortened and inactivated muscles.
Thus prolonged emotions often lead to muscle pain. In worse cases, to chronic debilitating pain.
Our body is a feedback system that is constantly telling us how we feel and where we need adjustment. It is our choice wether to listen or not.
In any case our choices will lead to consequences.
There are at least 71 channels or pathways used in Chinese Medicine.
They all have different purpose and effect when accessed during an Acupuncture session.
However there are 12 sinew channels -encompassing all muscles, tendons, ligaments- that a Tuina Massage therapist works with predominantly.
In terms of Chinese Medicine, people experiencing high amount of stress and anxiety usually leads to the qi (vital energy) to be trapped in the upper part of the body.
You don’t even have to imagine it. Just pay attention to your body when this happens. You will feel as you cannot breath deep into your abdomen, you chest might feel a bit heavy and constricted. Your shoulder (especially your trapezius muscle) will tighten and raise your shoulder. You might even feel tension in your neck as in something is pulling on it -from around a place between your scapula.
This is a basic explanation of when certain Sinew channel pathways become tense and constricted. The real problem is however, when these muscles groups are shortened for a prolonged time, as they will literally start building up armour -especially around the shoulder- that will feel like wood or concrete. Thus ’emotional armouring’.
There are many ways to reverse this process, however it will always require consistency and investment.
Wether you go for massages regularly, be seen by an osteopath or attend yoga classes. Real, long lasting change will only happen if you bild awareness in your body.
You will need to leave behind aggravating habits and pick up new ones that help to release this armour causing you muscle pain.
That is why Qigong and Tai Chi classes are excellent. Because you not only learn exercises to help and relax both your body and mind. But you also build -over time- deep awareness in your body and your life.
Acupuncturist Philippa Summers shares the nourishing effects of our recent team picnic and the ingredients that helped make it.
The plan was a midsummer 3 day social / retreat in Scotland, meeting up for the first time in her homeland with WNT founder, Jennie Duck, who manages WNT remotely from rural Ayrshire. After all the social cancellations, postponements and thwarted arrangements that Covid wrought on us all we had thought that this one was in the bag. We meet regularly on Zoom and Jennie makes the occasional trip South, but this was to have been our first trip to see her there since she moved several years ago and our first residential social together.
Planned in March, excitement seeded, accommodation reserved, trains booked and therein lay the rub. It wasn’t covid that scuppered our plans it was the train strike. Driving that distance was out of the question with all train traffic moving to the roads so we cancelled. We were all gutted.
So, plan B a picnic in Brockwell Park! Sadly no Jennie, of course. And, just to be clear this was a ‘keep it simple’ kind of picnic – not a wicker basket or gingham tablecloth in sight. Bring a sandwich, with the emphasis on getting together and making the most of the sunshine. Lauren, bless her, did however make the most gorgeous lemon and poppyseed cake with gooey tangy lumps of lemon flesh, elevating it up a notch or two! It was a glorious lunchtime together, a modest affair, a chance to catch up face to face. Alas, not quite what we had planned but when life cancels the trains and gives you lemons, make the delicious lemon and poppy seed cake below and have a picnic.
If you are not a regular to Brockwell Park do checkout it’s many surprises. The walled garden, the Community Greenhouses, the views of the city from between the café and the tennis courts, the lido, children’s paddling pool and playground. Our beloved park has so much to offer everyone.
Enjoy your summer!
Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake
This cake is huge with deliciously tangy pieces of lemon pulp to tantalise the tastebuds, so great for sharing at large summer picnic. Says it serves 10-12 but goes further than that. Not healthy (don’t even look at how much sugar it contains) but hey, once in a while!
7-10 unwaxed lemons (1kg)
210g unsalted butter, melted
95g grapeseed or other neutral oil
6 large eggs
1 egg yolk
530g plain flour
25g black poppy seeds
5g baking powder
5g bicarb of soda
For the glaze:
250g icing sugar
2 lemons juiced
Grease and flour a 2.8 litre Bundt Pan.
Heat oven to 190C, fan 175, Gas 5.
Zest the lemons (outer yellow only), reserving the zest.
On a plate to catch the juice, cut ends of each lemon and cut away peel. Remove the pulp from the membranes. Keep all the juice and the pulp cut into 1 inch chunks. Squeeze extra juice from the membranes and discard. This should give about 15g zest, 170g pulp, 70g juice. Top up with extra lemons. That is the fiddly bit done.
Whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate large bowl whisk together wet ingredients. Mix wet and dry and stir well to combine. Add lemon zest, pulp and juice and mix well.
Pour batter into bundt pan and bake 60-70 mins, checking after 60 mins – press top of cake and it should bounce back.
Cool cake in the pan for 45 minutes, loosen with a spatula and carefully turn onto a wire rack, with a wide pan underneath to catch any excess glaze.
To make the Glaze simply whisk the ingredients together and then pour over the cake in a steady stream. Leave to set for 15mins.
Acupuncturist and massage therapist Mihaly Rosta shares some interesting thoughts around the 'how' of our eating habits being as, if not more, important than the 'what'.
ow important is it to have the right food on your plate?
I usually see a divide amongst my friends and clients when it comes to diet and food.
Some people just eat for the joy of it, not caring much about if they eat a lot of carbs or meat. Whilst other people can be “almost” obsessive about what they eat. May that be superfoods, very specific vegetables and meat, etc.
So what is the correct attitude to diet?
Well, I of course could not give a simple answer to such an important question. Especially as I am not a dietician.
However when it comes to Chinese medicine, we always strife for balance. Walking the middle path.
Sure, it is important to have a varied diet -according to both food energetics, colours, food groups- but I find it much more important to look at how people eat and digest.
In my experience, our mental health and eating habits combined has a much stronger effect on our digestion and general health than the types of food we eat. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that we should all eat white bread, milk and sugar 3 times a day. I am referring to the fact that if you have a varied intake of vegetables, fruits and meats/nuts, you should not worry too much about whether it is organic or not, or how many superfoods and brown rice you include in your diet.
What is important then?
1. Structure and rythmn
It is generally important to follow a rythmn in our daily life. Structuring our days around our meals and sleep can provide with a healthy l. So we priorities ourselves, our nourishment amongst other responsibilities.
Taking breaks between meals (3-4 hours) gives our digestive system a rest, as opposed to continuous snacking which will overwork our Spleen and Stomach.
3. Focus /mindfulness
Eating should be about the food and our nourishment. The taste, texture, colour, smell of our food should be in the focus of our mind when we eat. Not TV, Netflix, news, daily tasks or plans for the week.
Let’s do ourselves a favour and eat mindfully. Just when we decide on the food we eat, we should apply the same mindfulness during our time of nourishment.
There is a Chinese saying that you should only fill your belly 2/3 of the way, so there is space for Qi to do the digestion.
Overeating is overtaxing on our digestive system. Finding the correct amount of food that does not leave us hungry, but also doesn’t makes us sleepy is essential.
It is important to drink plenty of fluids during the day, however it is best to avoid drinking with our meal. If you have a weak digestion, you may find it beneficial to drink digestives 20 minutes prior to your meals. Or if your meal seems to settle in heavy (lots of fats/oils) you may find drinking a (half) shot of clear spirit (I recommend Bison vodka for flavour 😛) also very beneficial.
On a different note. There seem to be a misconception about the amount of fluid we all need to drink. Generally speaking of we want to hydrate ourselves we have to include fluid-ful vegetables in our diet. Soups, curries, tomatoes, courgettes, etc.
6. 100 steps
Digestion does not stop when we finish eating. On the contrary. It’s fairly important that we rest after a meal for about half an hour. The Chinese has been recommending 100 slow steps after eating. As (slow) walking aids the intestinal movements (peristalsis) and thus digestion.
7. Avoid going to bed on a full stomach
Simple as that, we should not be wasting our energy on digestion whilst we are sleeping. More over, it is most beneficial to have a bigger gap (intermittent fasting) in our day when our digestive system is to rest.
8. Anxiety = IBS
Last but not least, looking after our mental health is perhaps the most important of tasks that we need in order to have a healthy digestion. I’ll talk about this more in detail another time.
So these are only a few points that are in my opinion are just as (if not more) important than the quality of the food we eat.
Thus if you are suffering with any digestive issues, you may find it beneficial to go through this list before you start cutting out your favourite foods.
Of course Acupuncture is an amazing tool to help/reset the digestive system. So if you feel you need some additional support in that regard. Do not hesitate to get in touch.
This month is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares some helpful guidelines in what to look for and how to protect yourself as well as her personal experience of a skin cancer scare.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month! Did you know that skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers if signs are caught early? This blog post is here to help you know what to look out for. As a soft tissue therapist I see a lot of skin, and so I am fairly attuned to noticing subtle changes, but how well do you know your own skin?
This month find some time to give yourself a skin check from head to toe - you will need to use a mirror. Don’t forget to look at your face and scalp. You can use a hairdryer to part your hair when looking at your scalp, or get someone to help you. You are looking for anything new, changing or unusual. So what is unusual?
Document your findings somewhere so that you can refer back to them next time you do a check. This is useful when trying to work out if anything has CHANGED. Skincancer.org recommends that you do a skin check once a month, but every 3 months is probably a little more realistic and works just fine.
The other important prevention method is protecting your skin from sun damage. The more you burn your skin from sun exposure, the greater your risk of developing melanoma. Five or more sunburns more than doubles your risk of developing melanoma. Even if you are tan or have dark skin, your skin can still be damaged by the sun especially when there is a high UV index - when and where the sun is strongest. Think about some simple ways to stay safe in the sun:
If you do notice something slightly abnormal in your skin make an appointment with your Doctor. If you have a partner you can ask them if they notice a difference from how it might have looked before (if you don’t have a reliable skin check history) or if you regularly see a massage therapist and feel comfortable asking them, see if they have noticed a change. You may be able to provide a bit more information to your Doctor this way, but the most important thing is to get it checked. Better safe than sorry. Early detection starts with you.
WNT founder Jennie Duck considers how differently we interact with anniversaries of births and deaths and in the week of 'dying matters' shares what currently matters to her about death and dying.
My son turns six in June – something generally agreed to be an exciting event, greeted with enthusiasm and joy (and, as parents, with utter awe that this person exists with a tinge of sadness that the stages he’s gone through are in the past now). It is a time for celebration; we tell people our birthdays and we enjoy marking them with cake and parties. Granted they might become a little less joyful if we are feeling resistance to aging, but they tend still to be a time we are cherished and celebrated.
In July it will be 5 years since my dad died and in February it was 4 years since my mum died. These dates loom very differently on my internal visual map of the 2022. While the anniversary of my son’s birth is a gentle peak, something with a very outward, yang energy, the anniversaries of my parents’ deaths are big craters with much more of an inward, yin energy.
I describe these as ‘craters’ which sounds very negative, but I don’t feel like that. The crater-ish-ness is symbolic of the desire to retreat and go down into the grief, it is also a reminder of what the period around the deaths felt like. These were dark holes of time that have left their mark forever. But they are not something I ever want to avoid. They are there and my awareness of them is part of the landscape of my life now.
These anniversaries change year to year. The first couple of years they hit extremely hard and involved a lot of reliving. I relived the week following my dad’s sudden death when we were absorbing the shock, whereas my mums rapid decline the week preceding her death was something I went through almost hour by hour the first two anniversaries. Now they are more mellow and I can’t always predict how it will pass. I do know, though, that it is vital to give them space, to allow for time and feeling the days leading up to it and sometimes beyond.
I find it extraordinary how we interact with death in our society – or how we try and avoid interacting with death. There seems to be a sense that if we draw attention to anniversaries, it is reminding people of loss, of the pain of grief. But this loss and pain is always there, it doesn’t go away because we don’t talk about it or acknowledge it. For some people an anniversary might just feel like something that they need to get past, but for me it feels as vital as Christmas. It shapes the year, it helps me remember in a mind, body and spirit way that life is precious and fragile and cannot be taken for granted.
This week is ‘dying matters’ week which draws important attention to the circumstances and environment of how we die and encourages conversations around death. It is easy to avoid putting attention towards our own death or that of anyone we love, be that practical or emotional attention.
At the moment what matters to me about dying is that we remember it. That we remember it in our very act of living, that THIS is life, this is our existence, and it doesn’t go on forever. That we remember it in our relationships, that these people we rely on and share with and love so much will one day die. That thought that can be so crippling can also give us fire for living, an opportunity to savour who and what we have while we have it.
And mostly, still in my relatively early years of grief experience, it matters that we remember the deaths of those that we have lost. That we remember their impact on our lives, how they shaped us and affected us. That we remember who they were in their lives, what they did with their time on earth and who they touched while they were around. And, finally, that we remember what we went through in losing them, how that moment rerouted our life path and changed us forever. If we can let ourselves remember this and really feel it then, perhaps, we can let ourselves really grieve, let go and really live.
We are delighted to be welcoming Mihaly Rosta - aka Mike - onboard from May. Mike will be offering acupuncture and tui na massage with some other Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques and running clinics on Tuesdays and Sundays. He will also be available for ad hoc appointments over the coming months, please contact him to arrange these. We are happy he is joining us and feel his calm, grounded nature and particularly lovely treatments will be a good fit to our small, happy team :-)
My name is Mike (Mihály). I have just moved to the neighborhood and it feels great to be here.
I am a qualified Acupuncturist, Massage therapist, Qigong and Tai chi instructor.
However in practical terms I am here to help people self-reflect, with the purpose of easing their suffering so they can live their lives fully, healthily.
Now when I say Acupuncture, or Tai chi you may think: what does that have to do with any of that?
As an Acupuncturist and Massage therapist, I am there to identify patterns and to nudge your system a bit to leave behind anything that does not serve you, and to focus on the areas that needs your attention.
As a Tai chi and Qigong instructor it may seem that I am just teaching movements, forms, stretching whilst you are actually learning to identify tensions, forgotten painful areas and all those stored up stress and emotions that had no space to be expressed.
I am not here to fix you because you are not broken.
I am here just as a reminder that everything you need is already in your possessions. I believe that we all just need to thrive for clarity, so we can discern what we do not need, and what needs our attention.
If I had to choose one message:
Take a second for yourself. Check back in your physical and emotional body. Have a compassionate moment of silence. See what you need and take action accordingly. Because you deserve it. We all do.
Harmony Within Acupuncture
Our fab sports massage therapist Lauren shares her profound experience volunteering for Tommy's charity at the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the joy and hopefulness that she took from this life affirming event in aid of a charity that does vital work for people in life challenging situations.
The London Landmarks Half Marathon was set up by Tommy’s charity to boost their fundraising efforts and provide a celebratory run following London’s landmarks with the strap-line, ‘The Grand. The Quirky. The Hidden’. It is such a fun event and this year the team have reached out to brilliant performers, volunteers and community groups around London to entertain and support runners along the route, making this year a true celebration of London’s culture and heritage. Tommy’s charity does important work in supporting mothers and babies, funding research into miscarriage, still birth, and premature birth, and provides pregnancy health information to parents.
I had the privilege of volunteering for post-event massage back in 2018 at the first ever LLHM event! Tommy’s did a wonderful job of organising a beautiful space for us to treat the runners and I still remember the brilliance of the day. The atmosphere in the room was absolutely buzzing; you could almost feel a physical energy to it. Congratulations 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.
Since then I have also volunteered at the London Marathon and more locally at the Windrush Aquathlon. At events I mainly treat through or around clothing as the treatment areas are not usually private. I can still gain great results from several techniques this way, using compressions, soft tissue release, and involving the runner actively using muscle energy techniques to help relax and lengthen muscles. It is quite a tiring day massaging runner after runner - at a busy event I probably get through about 20 or so people, each runner receiving 15-20 minutes of treatment.
All the massaging aside, the main thing that struck me on the day was the atmosphere and humility of everybody that I met. Even though these people were taking on a tough physical challenge, the positivity was contagious. It was clear that they felt supported, valued and proud in themselves and their achievements for the cause. Due to the nature of Tommy’s charity work, perhaps some of the people that I met had had an experience with miscarriage, still birth, or a premature birth in some aspect. By running the half marathon they were taking positive action and helping to support themselves and others. It truly inspired me.
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 a sporting event, DO IT. And if you’re running the LLHM or another race coming up soon (Brighton and Manchester I’m looking at you), then good luck! You have come this far and getting to the start line is 75% of the challenge. Massage can be very beneficial both pre and post event as well as helping you to maintain fitness and form throughout training. Come and see me at West Norwood Therapies on Wednesdays or Sundays, I’m here to help you be your best.
In honour of International Women's Day WNT founder Jennie Duck shares her joy in working with a team of women at WNT
I have said it before and I’ll say it again – and again – Working With Women is Wonderful!! I did not intentionally set out to curate a team of women at West Norwood Therapies – I just set out to create a team that worked well together, that supported one another, that played their individual part in collaboration and contributing towards a healthy, happy and productive working environment. And it turns out this particular team of women does just that!
We are all professional and highly skilled in our fields and we all work well as independent, individual practitioners working one on one with clients. And then we come together and share, talk, laugh and support one another. During lockdown we had zoom calls almost every week and we all found this to be something akin to group therapy, a time we could check in and feel connected with one another.
For the first time we are planning an in-house ‘retreat’ this summer – a few days away together to enjoy one another’s company and strengthen our personal as well as professional bonds and treat one another to our therapies too.
Perhaps I’ve been lucky with this particular group of women, but given the women who have come and gone from WNT I know that the magic goes beyond our current small team. It is precious that we can mix the personal with professional, the emotional with the practical and offer one another a web of support where we feel secure and content in our work.
Here’s to all the Wonderful Women of the World. We love men too but today is all about the XXs so here I acknowledge Wonder where it rises 😊
Acupuncturist and wholesome food enthusiast Philippa Summers shares some of the benefits and uses of bone broth and advises how to get a good batch going with insider tips and ideas to make it tasty and nutritious.
I have always had an interest in cooking wholesome food for both enjoyment and health and am guided away from processed foods by choosing ingredients that ‘ran, swam, flew or grew’ in their most natural state. Like many people I have in recent years leant towards a more heavily plant-based diet with an emphasis on a wide variety of colourful fruit and veg, wholegrains and plant-based protein like lentils, pulses, beans and tofu. However, I do still eat fish and meat, buying far less but of higher quality, higher welfare - by trying to choose largely wild fish and meat that is free-range, grass fed, preferably organic - and using every last bit which brings me to the wonders of bone broth.
It has been revered for its potent nutritional and medicinal properties by various cultures across the globe for thousands of years from ancient Greece, throughout Africa and Asia, to the infamous recuperative ‘Jewish Penicillin’. A South American proverb states ‘Bone Broth will resurrect the dead’. It had a reputation within Chinese Medicine stretching back over 2,500 years for its ability to support digestion and reproductive health – pre-conceptually for both men and women to support egg and sperm health, during pregnancy for mum and baby, and post birth to help mum rebuild her strength.
Bone broth is packed with easy to digest gelantinous protein and amino acids from the collagen in cartilage, and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium from the bones, extracted by long slow cooking. Wide ranging potential health benefits include helping to support skin, bone and joint health, soothing gut issues like ulcerative colitis and leaky gut, supporting immune function, helping recovery from upper respiratory infections and it may also help to promote good sleep. The combination of skin, joint and sleep effects likely make it beneficial for women post menopause, a time when increasing protein and reducing carbs can be helpful.
We can get a bit caught up about what’s in food and what it is good for. Sometimes it is good just to let go of that and enjoy the wholesomeness because you know in another more intuitive way that it is nourishing. For me bone broth is one of those things. A warm soothing elixir! It is delicious drunk on its own, makes a great base for soups and stews.
For convenience you can buy bone broth ready-made, conveniently packaged and delivered frozen direct from the farm to your door but it is far cheaper and satisfying to make your own. It cooks for so long that it is more economical on fuel to cook up a big batch so I collect any chicken bones both raw and cooked in the freezer until I have a good supply, supplementing them with some chicken carcass bones from the butchers to fill a stock pot.
Chicken Bone Stock Recipe
This recipe uses chicken bones and cooks for 4-6 hours. You could make a fish version substituting the chicken for fish heads and bones usually discarded by the fishmonger so very cheap – use about 1kg per litre of water - and simmer for one hour. Strain through muslin to remove all bones.
You’ll need a large stock pot with a tight fitting lid.
Optional: Before making the stock you can roast the bones for an hour in the oven until they are golden for a richer flavour.
The effort will more than pay off for the ease with which you can prepare a tasty meal or quick warming drink that nourishes you deep to the bone. Enjoy!
Acupuncturist and kitchen dynamo Philippa Summers shares some guidelines for a hearty winter breakfast of champions that will warm you from the inside out and stoke your fire for the day ahead. Yum!
What do you have for breakfast? Do you even have breakfast? It’s often a meal that people skip or habitually go for something quick like a cold bowl of cereal or a couple of slices of toast on the go but when the temperatures drop there is nothing like a comforting bowl of porridge to start the day and get the warmth going from the inside. It is quick to prepare, will sustain you all morning and is a gift to your whole digestive system.
Try a water-based whole oat porridge, flavoured with a small spoonful of blood-nourishing molasses, and maybe some cinnamon and ground flax seeds.
Top with a sprinkling of pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds for extra goodness and a couple of spoonfuls of berries. I use frozen summer berries out of season and just warm them gently. For speed, and if you don’t mind a strangely coloured porridge just add them to the porridge towards the end of cooking. I like a splash of milk to finish it off when it’s in the bowl for that that combo of thick porridge and liquid milk. Delicious and nutritious!
If you skip breakfast you may find yourself going for less nourishing alternatives as your blood sugar drops. It can precipitate a vicious cycle of sugar spikes, drops and unhealthy snacking. Starting the day with nourishing breakfast gets your eating habits off to a healthy start and one suggestion to prompt an appetite at breakfast time might be to replace supper with something very light late afternoon or early evening for a night or two, just to kick start a breakfast habit.
Finally, try to make time to sit and enjoy your meals, including breakfast. The digestive process begins when we look at the food, anticipate it and the digestive juices start to flow. And we are more likely to chew our food well, another important part of the digestive process,if we are relaxed and not in a rush. Good digestion is as much about how we eat as what we eat.
Blogs from the WNT team. For our blogs from before June 2020 please see individual profile pages - it's a good way to get to know practitioners too.