Meridians are one of the most fascinating gifts we got from Traditional Chinese Medicine. And they are much more than abstract energy lines flowing through the body.
Imagine the following situation: you’re returning home from a journey late at night. You’re tired and hungry since what the airlines serve these days as a main course leaves as much to be desired as the leg space in economy class. You throw your bag in a corner, make a beeline for the fridge and take stock. Perhaps you’re lucky and, despite your hasty departure, it not only harbours the expected appearance of the duo Foul & Mould but also a couple of pleasant surprises. Okay, after a week’s absence, the remains of the veg have seen better days, and a few other items seem to have developed a life of their own despite the overdose of preservatives contained in most foods these days. At least the smoked ham looks acceptable. But better be on the safe side and cautiously guide it to your nose. The odour test delivers what the eye had hoped for. The stomach approves the result with a demanding growl. Together with the emergency ration of crackers you come up with a passable midnight snack. Done and dusted.
Eating: a completely normal everyday procedure with a logical order. Looking, smelling, chewing, swallowing, digesting. A completely normal process requiring many parts of the body to cooperate with each other and interact in a well-orchestrated manner: eyes, nose, teeth, tongue, chewing muscles, oesophagus, and stomach: they all form a functional community for the purpose of food intake. But before we even get to the point when we target and devour the desired titbit there has to be a stimulus, a need to be satisfied, initiating the entire process. Be it hunger, the mood for food or the desire to fill the terrible emptiness of a broken heart with calories. Whatever triggers the stimulus, it encourages us to carry out the relevant actions, one after the other.
Leonie Taylor & Charlotte Watts explore how our skin is the first line in communication, both to our internal landscape and the world around us.
The integumentary system (aka the skin)
The integumentary system, otherwise known as our skin, is both a boundary and a contact surface, a sensory organ. Every inch of our skin hosts over 2.5 million bacteria. The make-up of the skin microbiome varies greatly between individuals as well as where on the body it is, influenced by:
Physiology: sex hormones, age and site
Environment: climate and geographical location
Immune system: previous exposures and inflammation
How did you become interested in essential oils and aromatherapy?
My first encounter with essential oils happened in the 1980’s as a newly registered nurse specialising in oncology at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital. During that time, I observed patients receiving gentle hand massages using simple blends of lavender and sweet marjoram, fragrances that captured my attention and also my curiosity. In those moments of connection, where touch was non-medicalised, a different level of communication was taking place. Patients were visibly relaxing by this compassionate form of physical touch and tangible act of caring. For me, something transformational happened as I listened to these patients speak of their restful night’s sleep and tranquil dreams; a paradox given this was a busy hospital environment and they were all confronting a life-threatening diagnosis of cancer. This discovery of a different level of patient care spoke straight to my heart.
…And how yoga – both physically and philosophically – can ease the path to healing
By Leonie Taylor & Charlotte Watts
From content covered in their books Yoga Therapy for Digestive Health and Yoga & Somatics for Immune & Respiratory Health.
To talk ‘health’ in a modern context is to recognise the need to be ‘trauma-informed’ and meet the recognition that we are all holding the stories of the past in various ways, much of which is unconscious and comes out in reactions that may overwhelm or that we don’t understand. This is not to teach a specific ‘trauma class’, but to be aware of holding compassionate space for the subtleties that tuning in and embodiment can uncover.
We don’t need to identify or even mention trauma but whether teaching a class or holding space for ourselves, recognising that tuning into our needs, boundaries and responses is to allow any nature of experience to arise. Whether we are holding intergenerational, shock, developmental or vicarious trauma, embodied awareness (tuning into the sensory, bodily experience of each moment) can help us navigate towards a relationship with grounding and even calm. It may even be the gateway towards post-traumatic growth.
Written to celebrate National Complementary Therapy Week. This was a week long campaign where we celebrated across our Singing Dragon social channels for 5 days. Each day we showcased an area of our publishing to help you familiarise yourself with the range of titles we have.
We explore why listening in to and cultivating compassion for your microbiome can affect your whole health, including your immunity and mood…
Written by Charlotte Watts and Leonie Taylor, co-authors of Yoga Therapy for Digestive Health and Yoga and Somatics for Immune and Respiratory Health.
When we explore a meditative yoga or somatic practice, we bring attention to the subtle body, our interior landscape, as a means of then expanding clearer compassionate connection to our environment. In scientific terms, this plays out in the relationship between our microbiome and our whole body-mind integration, and out into the world around us.
The importance of the gut environment – the microbiome – on all aspects of our health, including psychological, is being increasingly researched. We are home to trillions of bacteria and, in a healthy digestive tract, 80% friendly, 20% pathogenic. The beneficial or probiotic bacteria help keep harmful bacteria as well as colonisers like yeast in check. Low probiotic bacteria levels are associated with depression and fatigue states, whereas a healthy gut flora can modulate the hypersensitivity that may come from chronic exposure to stress. Our microbiome is now believed to be a large part of the signalling mechanisms up through the gut-brain axis, where its communication plays a vital role in healthy brain function.
Whilst my first book Love Untethered is for readers who are grieving, my second book Supporting Your Grieving Client is for the wellness practitioners who might work with them.
Initially, when I was asked by Singing Dragon, in my capacity as a holistic grief coach and BANT nutritional therapist, if I would be interested in writing a book on grief for wellness practitioners, I wasn’t sure if I would have enough to write about. However, very quickly that changed when I thought about all the times, as a bereaved person, I had found doctors, counsellors and some wellness practitioners to be pretty clueless about what grief was really like. They often seemed completely out of depth when confronted by someone like me, a traumatised grieving mother.
Pranayama, yogic breathing, means ‘extends life force’. This points to the importance of the breath to our whole health; healthy breathing patterns not only support respiratory health but also affect our immune capacity. This in turn affects our digestive and whole body health.
January is a common time for resolution-based diets and lifestyle shifts that may purport to ‘boost our immunity’. As we explore in Yoga & Somatics for Immune & Respiratory Health, ‘boosting’ immunity is, however, a problematic phrase, as immune issues are so often down to poor modulation – inappropriate rather than inadequate immune responses – with some parts stuck on over-reaction, especially inflammation. We can see in Fig 1, below, how the immune system’s balance can become dysregulated in either direction, leading to different issues.