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The Heart Speaks and the Kidneys Listen

Since the Lockdown I’ve been seeing more and more people who are suffering with anxiety and depression.  Recently I resumed my work at Macmillan and, although my first client was booked in for 45 minutes, we ended up chatting for the whole treatment.  For my client it was invigorating to simply get out of his house and be able to talk to someone different for a change.  I could see his spirits lifting without me even having to put a needle in (Don’t worry, he did get some acupuncture too). You could see that much of the anxiety that he was suffering from was due to lack of human contact.

And now many of us must endure another Lockdown.

Barbaric treatment of the Elderly & Vulnerable

Sadly, it’s the ones who need contact with their loved ones the most who are being locked away.  Many of the elderly, with dementia and other serious conditions, are simply fading away because they are being isolated ‘for their own good’.  My own Grandmother died last week in a home for the elderly.  She was 99 with advanced vascular dementia and she died on her own.  We were one of the ‘lucky’ families however, as she was allowed one visitor for a few hours a week…in the garden.  On the day she died my mother was allowed into her room for one hour in the morning.

Nan died that same day at 9pm, alone.  Is this the world we want to live in, a world where we simply shut people away until the problem disappears with a magic pill?

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Louise Hayward 1921 – 2020

Living in fear destroys joy

We need to be able to express ourselves to have a health existence, without that we just wither and die.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it’s all about the Heart and Kidney.  The emotions associated with the Heart are Love and Joy, while for the Kidneys it is Fear.  So lack of love and joy will affect the health of the Heart, and living in isolation and a state of fear weakens the Kidneys.  Seeing as many of us have been living in isolation and fear for the best part of a year…well, you don’t need me to tell you it isn’t good.

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The relationship between the Heart and Kidneys is a crucial one; the Fire element of the Heart controls the Water element of the kidneys, and vice versa.   The Water stops the Fire from becoming a blaze, while the Fire warms the Kidneys preventing them from becoming to cool.  So, from an energetic point of view, this year has effectively done everything it can to extinguish our passion for life.  It also feels like we are in a permanent state of stagnation, which stops our energy from moving, which affects all the organs.

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The Gate of Life

In TCM it is also said that a fire is borne between the Kidneys, known as the Ming Men Fire or Gate of Life (or vitality).  This fire acts like a cauldron, boiling up all the waste and fluids in the lower aspect of the body, separating the good from the bad,  but also creating a steam that rises up and moistens the organs, keeping the sinews flexible and the Mind clear.  And although the Heart has a fire of its own, it is supported by the heat generated by the Ming Men.  So if the Kidneys are weakened (by fear for instance), then so too is the Ming Men fire.  And when the Ming Men goes cold, the fire leaves you and you are no more.

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The Heart speaks and the Kidneys listen

In TCM it is said that the Heart opens at the tongue, so the state of your heart\fire is reflected in the condition of your tongue. The health of your Heart also affects speech and any abnormalities may cause stuttering or aphasia (inability to comprehend or formulate language).  Apart from speech difficulties themselves, the Heart also influences talking and laughing. Often a disharmony of the Heart can cause a person to talk incessantly or laugh inappropriately, like that person who tells you a sad story and then laughs at the end.

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Can you hear me?

Speaking is important but it is nothing without someone to listen back.  Good hearing depends on healthy kidneys.  The kidneys open into the ears; if the kidneys are healthy the ears can hear the five sounds.  Weak Kidneys may impair hearing and also lead to tinnitus.  Hearing can deteriorate with age, which corresponds with the weakening of the Kidneys as we get older.  This is nature.  As we grow older the yin depletes and so does the yang in turn.  One cannot exist without the other.  Which again takes us back to the relationship between the Heart and Kidneys – fire and water = Yin and Yang.

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I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to have someone to speak to, and more than one person preferably.  We are social beings.  This is our evolution.  The fire is hugely significant to us as humans.  Without the discovery of fire, we would still be crawling around in the primordial soup.  Fire enabled us to keep warm and ward off wild animals.  It allowed us to cook food making it more digestible.  It allowed us to bend metals to create weapons for hunting and defence.  And where would be without water?

So, if you need to chat, about anything, or you just would like someone to listen to you, give me a call.  My door is always open.

Much love.



If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.


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Autumn is here…nearly!

Just when we thought it was Autumn the sun has decided to give us one more blast of warmth!  Strictly speaking, of course, it’s the tilt of the planet and the southerly winds that dictate when it is warm in the UK.  The sun doesn’t really care.  It just shines on regardless, 24/7 all year round, hopefully for the next 5 billion years before it finally dies.

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Earth Phase = late summer

Autumn isn’t due until the equinox on 22nd September of course, so at the moment it’s still summer, albeit barely hanging on by its fingertips.  According to the Five Elements system in Chinese philosophy, we are actually in the Earth phase, a pivotal time of year between the Yang and Yin when the summer is waning.  It is the last days of the harvest; the final crops are being brought in and fruits are at their ripest and sweetest.

It is also the Earth phase that connects all the elements to each other.   The Earth in our bodies is represented by the functions of the Stomach and Spleen (or the digestive system), and so the centre of the human anatomy, so pretty important to the whole of the body.  The harvest is also pretty important.  Without a good harvest the winter will be pretty grim, which will have a knock on effect for the seasons to follow.

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Living according to the Seasons

The same applies to us too.  In this context a good harvest might mean a good salary, enough to perhaps invest and build up a pension pot for our autumn years.  It might also mean living a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit throughout our summer years (in this context meaning one’s 30s and 40s) in order to enjoy our retirement years.

The Autumn should be a time of withdrawing from outside involvement and looking for meaning within. It is a time of ‘letting go’, just as the trees let go of their leaves.  If you find it difficult to let go, then you may find it difficult facing the end of life.  And if your harvest is poor, you may find yourself working later on in life when you should be having a gin and tonic at the bowls club.

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Hello Yul

Skinny jeans

So what happens if we don’t (or can’t) let go? Well, if we don’t let go of the summer and continue to wear less, stay up late and eat summer foods, we are more susceptible to viruses and the cold. Or, put another way, if we are not in tune with the changing of the seasons (or nature), our Qi may be weakened and therefore our defences are down.

This can mean poor health too, or even an early death.  Again, using our own life phases as an example, when you are entering the Autumn time of life it becomes increasingly difficult doing the things you were able to do quite easily when you were 30.  It might not be a matter of having the energy, but rather being older and wiser, ‘been there and done that’.  Plus skinny jeans look better on youngsters.

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This is the natural cycle of life, something the ancient Chinese not only noticed acutely, but studied and mapped out extensively by way of the 5 element system.  In the Spring everything is bursting with energy, nature flourishes and there is renewed vigour.  This leads to Summer, when the sun is high and growth is in full swing and settling into itself, followed by the late summer, the time of maturation and harvest.  Then comes Autumn, the time of letting go and inward reflection, preparing for the long Winter months of isolation and recovery.

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Out of sync with Nature

This is in an ideal world of course.  Now we find this natural order being affected by global warming, a manmade affliction.  The ice caps are melting, bushfires rage across America, diseases cross the species barrier.  And, of course, Man does not live separate to Nature; we are part of Nature, so in turn our own natural rhythms and health is out of balance too.  Obesity rates in the uk have quadrupled in the last 25 years, which means more diabetes, cancer, and many other comorbidities.  Depression and mental health issues can be found in all sections of society and all age groups.  World fertility rates are on the decline year on and year out.

As I’ve said lots of times in my blog, we need to tune into how we are feeling in order to change our health, and perhaps that means tuning into how the planet is feeling too.  So lots of Qi Gong Earth postures!

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.


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Escaping the Herd and finding your Path

So, something else that I noticed over the Lockdown was this insistence of “keep on going”, “only the weak give up”, and “keep calm and carry on”, etc.  This type of mantra has been around forever of course, but it seems to have become more prevalent lately.  Or is it just me?  There is nothing wrong with this type of rhetoric; it’s important to remain motivated and keep the spirits up.  The flipside unfortunately are feelings of guilt and shame if for any reason you can’t “just do it”.  And sometimes it is positively the wrong advice.  In my experience, this type of inner voice can be quite destructive and simply leads to disappointment and depression, even physical injury.

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Keep on not keeping on going

Instead of just keeping on irrespective of how you feel, how about taking a moment to pause and experiencing who you are and what you want.  Nature does it every year, taking a moment to rest and replenish; it’s called Winter.   And to top it all, the predominate emotion over the lockdown has been fear, which has the potential to severely deplete our Kidney and Yin energy.  Just “carrying on”, together with a Yin deficiency, only leads to one thing…ill health.

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Yul again…I couldn’t resist it

I wrote about this a few years ago in my blog about exercise addiction, when a good thing becomes bad.  In this article I explain that as your Qi becomes more depleted you have to do more and more to get that ‘runner’s high’, that fix of endorphins that once came so easily.We need to tune-in to what we really need, and to do this we can take some advice from nature.  Nature doesn’t try, it just does.  The river doesn’t flow uphill, that goes against its nature.

Finding your True Nature

So how can you tune into your inner nature?  It takes some degree of practice, that’s all.  In Taoism they call it Wu Wei, or action without action.  To use the river analogy again, the river doesn’t have to ‘think’ about flowing, it just flows.  The wind doesn’t have to think about blowing.  The seed doesn’t have to think about growing.  Similarly, neither do we.  It just happens.  But this doesn’t mean do nothing.  Yes, we grow, but into what?  So, it’s important how we cultivate ourselves.

The trick is knowing what you need, rather than what you want.

Practices such as Qi gong and meditation help the body’s natural energy flow, as do the right foods, making the whole process of Wu Wei happen more easily.  And if Qi gong isn’t enough, well, then you come to see someone like me for Acupuncture and Tui na.

Healthy Qi has its own natural flow.  In nature we can observe it in the seasons.  Water always flows downwards.  Fire always burns upwards.  Trees grow in all directions!

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Qi isn’t static, nor does it just float around like a mist.  It moves according to its function.  For example, Stomach Qi always descends.  If for some reason it ascended, the result would be nausea and vomiting.  Qi is also affected by the time of day, the time of year, and the time of one’s life (Qi moves a lot quicker in a 21 year old than it does in an 81 year old!).  It is affected by the environment, including the weather and pollution, and also by our emotions, so not only how you are feeling in general but who you have spoken to or what you might have just seen on the news.  Even just being in the same room as someone in a bad or good mood will affect your energy, which is something we have all experienced.  So bearing all this in mind, you can imagine what the Lockdown and COVID fear is doing to our Qi!

Fill the tank before setting out

So ‘just keep going’ is not always the best advice, especially when your Qi is taking a battering.  Running on empty is a common analogy. It makes sense to fill your car up with petrol before your head out on a journey, rather than after.

It is of course important to remain motivated, whatever your physical condition, but the Mind too will be affected by the state of your Qi, and vice versa, the state of the Mind affects Qi.  Depression and hopelessness can deplete the Qi, whereas Qi stagnation, often a consequence of Qi deficiency, can lead to frustration and anger.  Or in more severe cases, you just lack the energy to do anything or feel anything.

So don’t be too hard on yourself.  Don’t feel pressurized into keep going when your gut feeling is to just take a moment to check in with your true nature.  Going with the flow doesn’t mean simply following the herd, but rather simply doing what is natural for you.

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.


If you are interested in what direction the Qi should flow in, I have listed the main organs below.


Control the descending of Qi: send Qi downward to Kidneys & Bladder.


Controls the smooth flow of Qi in all directions, esp. upward.
Lungs & Liver balance each other (Lung Qi flows downward, and Liver Qi upward)


Control transformation of Water.
Impure Fluids flow downward & clear Qi flows upward.
Lung Qi descends to Kidneys. Kidney Qi ascends to Lungs.
Lungs send Qi down. Kidneys receive Qi.
Lung controls exhalation. Kidney controls inhalation.


Spleen sends pure Qi upward to Lungs & Heart.
Stomach sends impure Qi downward for further refinement.
Spleen controls transformation, Stomach controls receiving.
Therefore ascending of clear Qi and descending of impure Qi depend on ascending of Spleen Qi and descending of Stomach Qi.

Heart and Kidneys

Fire of Heart flows downward to meet Water of Kidneys. Water of Kidneys rises to nourish Fire of Heart.

Derangement of any of the above directions of Qi flow can cause problems.


  • Stomach Qi rises instead of descending: nausea, vomiting, belching.
  • Spleen Qi descends instead of rising: diarrhea, prolapsed organs


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Are you Looking but not Seeing?

One of the things I noticed during the lockdown was how often I have my head down looking at my phone.  I eventually uninstalled Facebook, not only because I was looking at it far too much, but also because it made me feel bad for not totally redecorating the house or learning a new language.

Things are looking up

I did, however, start to walk more; mainly to simply get out of the house (and ignore the decorating that needed to be done), but it was also an opportunity to clear my head.  One day I just happened to look up and noticed a building I had never seen before.  I’ve lived in Southend all my life and have probably walked/run/cycled/driven past this building a thousand times over the last 50 years, so how could I have never seen this building before? And then it dawned on me that I never look up; or more accurately, I look but I don’t see.  So I started to look up as I walked.

Behind the facade

If you have walked down Southend high street in the last 50 or 60 years, you would have noticed that architecturally it’s a 1960s modernistic nightmare.  Whoever was in charge of town planning in the post-war years was seriously lacking in inspiration and designed simply for functionality (although he deserves a pat on the back for the old central library, which is a lovely piece of post-modern architecture).  If you look closely, most of the original buildings in the high street are still there, just hidden behind facades.

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Southend Central Library

Looking without Seeing

My point is, I suppose, is that it’s funny how we can look without seeing.  Most things we do, I guess, are not done consciously.  We just float through our lives never looking up and doing what we are told, either through conditioning or simply for a quiet life.  For example, we all know how easy it is to decide whether we like someone the moment we lay eyes on them.   It takes just 3 seconds from meeting someone and making a judgement as to whether you like that person or not.   But this is so flawed.  In my experience, the person I initially judge to be the biggest plonker usually turns out to be my best friend!

Becoming instinctual

In his excellent book Bounce, Matthew Syed explains how the brain is too slow to react to a tennis ball approaching at 120mph, but instead, by practicing for thousands of thousands of hours, the muscle reaction must become instinctual to ensure the racket is in the right place in a millionth of a second.  Kung fu experts have known this for thousands of years, training to a degree where the mind is no longer part of the reactive process.  They practice to such an extent that their reactions are swift enough to block a punch, for instance, long before they have seen it and the brain has had time to react.  Bruce Lee said he fears the person who has trained one kick a thousand times rather than the person who has practiced a thousand kicks only once!

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So why do we rely on our sight so much, even when we know how inefficient it is?

The eyes are so important in our culture.  We even rely on the eyes as a sort of lie detector.  We say that the eyes are the windows to the soul and that you can’t hide the truth in the eyes.  It takes a lot of training to control the eye movement when not telling the truth, which is a big thing in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).  Or so I thought…In fact new research now suggests that that “lying eyes” are actually a myth.  It is verbal hesitations and excessive hand gestures that can give away a liar.

‘Seeing’ with touch

In Wing Chun kung fu, the martial art that I have studied for many years, we practice a sensitivity technique called chi sau, or ‘sticky hands’, in order to heighten our sensitivity.  At a more advanced level we even do this blindfolded to rule out the influence our sight has on our reactions.  One’s sight is replaced by the sensitivity of the hands.

The hands (or more accurately the Qi in one’s hands) are quicker to react to an attack than the eyes, and even the brain.  And of course, the thousands of hours of practice help, as demonstrated in Mathew Syed’s book above. In Qigong the eyes are closed to keep qi in, especially if it is depleted.  More normally though the eyes are kept open, or half open, to allow the qi to circulate freely.

The Liver channel opens at the eyes

In Chinese medicine the eyes and sight are most closely associated with the Liver, as the Liver channel opens at the eyes.  And because of the Liver’s relationship with blood, it is also responsible for keeping the eyes moist.  This is interesting when you consider the Liver’s role as the military leader when it comes to health, and its corresponding emotion of fear/courage.  As I’ve mentioned in many of my blogs, the Liver represents the warrior within all of us, giving us the courage to not only move forward in life, but also to defend ourselves.  To be an efficient warrior you need to keep your head up to be able to see.  Not just with the eyes, but intuitively and instinctively.   Fighting blindfolded is just as much about conquering fear as it is heightening the senses.  We instinctively close our eyes and flinch away from what we fear, or we lock ourselves away.

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Becoming blind to the problem

Try not to accept things without question, because what we see is not always true, as the COVID19 pandemic has highlighted; there is much going on around the world that we can’t afford to be blind to.   Equally, there is much to be distracted by in this world, and there is much that some people and groups of people don’t want us to see.  They want to carry on doing what they are doing –  making a lot of money at any price, away from prying eyes, or in plain sight most of the time.  It can be so obvious, we just don’t see it anymore.

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The distractions employed by these nefarious groups are pretty simple too.  We are encouraged to feed ourselves with junk food and numbing medications.  We eat our dinners in front of the tv, distracting us from the food we are putting into our mouths; it could just as well be cardboard.  We speed round the supermarket, subconsciously being told what to buy and eat. We walk around with our headphones on and our heads down looking at our phones.  We need to open our eyes!  Go to the market and see your food: feast with your eyes on the beautiful shapes and sizes of the fresh fruit and vegetables.  Walk with your head held high without headphones on.  Eat your food without watching TV every now and then.    Open your eyes and see what is going on around you and what’s coming your way!

It is only with open eyes that we can defeat fear and move forward.


If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.


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Competition Time!

This is your chance to win a copy of Peter Deadman’s ‘Live Long Live Well: Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Teachings’☯️

☯️ I am offering one lucky person this excellent book by Peter Deadman about the Yangsheng (Nourishment of Life), lessons from the Chinese classics on:

  • Diet: what to eat and how to eat
  • Exercise
  • Alcohol
  • Tea
  • Sleep
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Care of children
  • Old age
  • Detoxing
  • Cultivating the mind
  • Music and culture

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All you have to do to enter the competition is pop over to Facebook and do the following:

☯️’ Like’ Steve Coster Acupuncture Facebook page 
☯️’ Like’ the competition post
☯️ Share that post on Facebook
☯️ Winner will be first out of the hat 😀

Good luck!

The competition closes on 22/5/20 and the winner will be announced on 25/5/20.

UK participants only.
For the full terms & conditions please visit…/

Wishing you health and happiness, Steve.


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Breathing the Qi Gong Way

How are you all feeling?  These are difficult times, especially if you are prone to feeling anxious anyway.   It’s  the uncertainty of what lies ahead that makes me feel a bit anxious.  The trick is to stay in the moment, by which I mean, trying not to dwell on the past or the future – the past is gone and the future hasn’t happened, it’s just a dream.

When we feel anxious, the first thing that is affected is our breathing.  The breath becomes shallow and this starts a domino affect throughout the rest of the body.   In this short video I explain and demonstrate the breathing used in Qi Gong.  Breath is one of the most important aspects of Qi Gong, along with the Mind (or your intent).  In Qi gong we use our breath not only to build up the Qi, but also to focus the Mind and help move the Qi around the body, especially to where it is most needed.

Breathing to Connect Mind and Body

The Mind aspect of this type of breathing is what gives it depth, without which it would just be ‘breathing’ which we all need to do otherwise we would die!  Breathing abdominally is very grounding.  It draws down our energy, rooting us to the Earth, stopping us from floating away in our dream worlds that often do not represent reality.  So great if you are suffering from anxiety, now or at any time.

Grounding Meditation

I also include in the video a simple but effective grounding technique which can also be used as a meditation.  Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated to be affective, you just need to learn how to be in the moment.  This technique will help you get there.

If you have any questions, just let me know.  I am still open for consultations and advice, and Qi Gong lessons, just not in the traditional sense.  But I’m still working via Skype and FaceTime, and of course on the old fashioned telephone and email 🙂



If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.

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What day is it? Acupuncture under Lockdown

Is it week 3 or week 4 of lockdown? I’ve lost track of time.  As an Acupuncturist who works evenings and weekends it’s difficult keeping track of the days anyway.  When I was younger and working in the city, the structure of the week was very rigid. Monday was the start of the week; I was tired and invariably recovering from the weekend.  Wednesday was the middle of the week and always a dull sort of day, being stuck in the middle of the week; but it was also my training night at the kung fu club, so not such a bad day after all.  Thursday was the start of the weekend (well, for me anyway).  There was definitely a more relaxed feeling at work and I always felt a lot happier.  Friday was technically still a workday, but it felt like the weekend to me.  And then finally, it was the actual weekend.

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Insurance days

The Bad old days

Back then I structured my whole working week to make work more bearable and to get me to the weekend.  If I had anything difficult to do or a bit taxing, if I was able to I would schedule this for a Tuesday or a Wednesday.  Monday was always a day that I tucked myself away and kept my head down, trying not to catch anyone’s eye.  I called it my ‘colouring-in day’.  Thursday and Friday were days that I tried to keep free too; for me these were weekend days.  If I couldn’t manage to dodge work on these days, then I made sure it was scheduled for the morning.  Don’t get me wrong, although I didn’t like my job (which I’m sure you realise by now) I wasn’t that bad at it either.  I did it for 17 years and it was quite demanding at times, so I’m sure in all that time I would have been sacked if I wasn’t up to scratch.

Steve Coster Qi Gong Acupuncture Southend

The five elements of the week

Looking back (and knowing what I know now) I can see that my whole week was a microcosm of nature and the seasons, according to Chinese medicine and the five elements.  Monday was the most yin day; it represented the ‘winter’ of my week, when it was the quietest and I just wanted to hide away.  By Tuesday I was slowly emerging and expanding, like the Spring, ready for new growth.  (I make this sound more exciting than the reality of it – we are talking about Insurance here, after all).  By Wednesday and Thursday I was totally yang as I go into the ‘fire’ phase, or the ‘summer’ of my week.  Now I have recovered my energy and I’m at my most productive, literally firing on all cylinders, ready for the weekend, which is Friday and Saturday.  Now I was in the ‘earth’ phase, or the ‘late-summer’, reaping in the ‘harvest’ of my efforts earlier in the week.  (I make this sound quite dramatic, but remember we’re talking about insurance here).  And finally, we reach the ‘metal’ stage, or the ‘autumn’, which for me was Sunday; a time when we meditate on the past seasons and make preparations for the winter.

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These were not happy times for me.  But now I take solace knowing that, even in the most challenging and unhappy times in our lives, the seasons do change and we do move on.  The trick, I suppose, is tuning in to your ‘self’, knowing how you feel and what you want from life.  For me, I did this by practicing Wing Chun kung fu and Qi Gong.  The two most important aspects of Qi Gong are breathing and the Mind.  In Qi Gong we use Mind to move the Qi around the body, to nourish the organs, the bones, muscles, sinews, tendons, blood and fluids.  Without focusing the Mind, Qi Gong loses it’s depth and becomes ‘mindless’ exercise.  Practised with ‘mind’ then, Qi Gong can be so powerful that you can get a full workout without even moving.

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Being true to nature in the lockdown

We are actually in the wood phase of the year, the time of expansion and new growth.  The yang energy is picking up; the weather is getting warmer and we all want to be outside moving our Qi and making things happen.  Obviously, the lockdown poses a bit of a problem in that we can’t be as ‘expansive’ as we would like, but there is still much that can be done at home.  We can make plans, work on projects and ready ourselves for the summer and the fire phase, coming out of Lockdown like rockets!  And, of course, we can practice Qi Gong.

I am still doing treatments during the lockdown, although not in the traditional sense. Due to social distancing measures I can’t do acupuncture or tui na, but I am doing Skype and FaceTime sessions. Talking through your situation with me will allow me to tailor my advice to what would be most relevant for you as an individual. I can also show you Qi Gong techniques, acupoints and self-tui na, specifically for you. Although more limited in scope than face to face practice, there is good evidence that this sort of approach can benefit your health and help you self-manage your symptoms at home. Just call or drop me an email and we can go from there.

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.

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Surviving the COVID19 Lockdown with Chinese Medicine

What I’ve found to be most important to me during the lockdown is to create some sort of routine.  My work has been hugely affected by the lockdown and already I’m waking up with no idea what day of the week it is.  I’ve been trying to get up at a reasonable time in the morning (about 8am) and starting my day as I always did, with stretching and Qi gong.  I generally then work until lunchtime, working on my blog and website.  After lunch I do some exercise, and then in the afternoon I read.  It may be Groundhog Day but I’m still managing to be a bit productive and keep my sanity at the same time.

Going from 100mph to zero

At the start of the lockdown it was so easy to get caught up in the general panic.  I found the first week of lockdown incredibly difficult.  It felt like the brakes had been slammed on and my nose was squashed against the windscreen.  What makes it all so much worse is that energetically we are entering the Spring, a period of new growth and expansion.  It totally goes against the grain having to stay in when I just want to be outside enjoying the fine weather.  What makes it worse is looking out the window and it seems like it’s just me, everyone else is carrying on as normal.  I’m lucky enough to have a garden where I can stay grounded.  This weekend I did some general tidying up; I started off my seeds for the green house and prepared the veg beds for sowing.

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Looking after your mental health

It’s so easy to get caught up in it all: COVID19, 5G radiation, the loss of our right to freedom.  Add to this the worry of not being able to earn enough to pay the bills and also the feeling of isolation, and you have the perfect recipe for anxiety and mental health issues.  There have also been significant changes to the Mental Health Act, allowing people to be held for 3 times longer than previously (now up to 12 weeks) based on the recommendations of only one doctor instead of three.

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Finding solace in Chinese Medicine

So, it’s at time like this that we can look to Chinese medicine for solace and sage advice.  We must listen to that voice within us saying, slowdown, this is what you’ve been waiting for. Do some gardening. Meditate. And don’t feel guilty. Here is an opportunity to let go.  But I don’t think that voice is saying stop what you are doing, but rather, tune in to yourself.  Try to feel what you really need right now.  We are so caught up in living at 100 mph that now we are numb to our true needs.

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In this crazy world of more, more, more, we only see the yang aspect of the Wood/Springtime.  Industry, finance and politics only ever speaks of growth, expansion and the ability to accumulate as much as possible.  At the start of the pandemic, the thoughts of lots of people was to go and buy as much toilet roll and baked beans as possible!  In Chinese Medicine we say that the Liver acts as the General.  The panic buyers were simply responded to their Wood instinct to defend the borders of their empire.

Learning how to yield without snapping

I’m not being judgemental; these instincts are within all of us.  But we have been programmed by ‘the System’ to react in this way.  As I’ve mentioned many times in my earlier blogs, a healthy Wood element also needs to be flexible.  So just being warrior-like isn’t the only characteristic needed to cope with change, you also need to be flexible.  Sometimes retreating, stepping back and assessing the situation is necessary on the road to victory.  Just imagine an army that can only go blindly forward. A healthy Wood element needs to be supple and flexible, able to bend and yield to the wind.  Just like the trees, if we lack flexibility we are more likely to snap under pressure.

So let us take this opportunity to learn how to let go.  Slow down and take a moment to tune in to how you feel and what you actually need.  Now is not the time to be doing more, but less. Recover and recuperate, because we’ll all be back on the treadmill before long. Think of the yin aspects of the wood element. Without yin there can be no yang.


If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.

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Coronavirus and the Fear of the Unknown

In Chinese Medicine the Coronavirus is just like any other cold or flu; that is, it primarily affects the respiratory system.  But left unchecked, and depending on your overall health, it can soon work its way deeper into the body, causing more problems as it goes.

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The symptoms vary, but generally they relate to the Lung and Spleen in Chinese Medicine.  As the whole world knows by now, the main symptoms are fever and/or a cough, but some people have also experienced difficulty breathing, confusion, headache, and in a few cases, sore throat, runny nose, chest pain, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.  Or more worryingly, no symptoms at all.

Carrying on as normal?

While the government advice is to employ social distancing and self-isolation, there is equally a lot of pressure to carry on as normal.  We find it hard to be threatened by something that we cannot even see.   The argument to carry on as normal is strong of course.  On Radio 4’s Today programme, yesterday, I heard that in China an estimated 50,000 people have been saved from air pollution related deaths because some factories shut down during the peak of the epidemic.  In Venice the fish are returning to the canals.  And, of course, there are lots of other things out there that are more deadly than COVID19.

What has captured my attention is the emotional damage caused by the hysteria surrounding the Coronavirus.  The virus, or the hubbub around it, promotes fear, which is arguably more deadly than the actual virus itself.  But fear of what?  Fear of catching it, or worse, dying from it?  Or is it the fear of not being able to work or losing one’s job?  I would say, more than all of these, it is fear of the unknown.  And rightly so.  Who isn’t afraid of the unknown, an invisible enemy that has the potential to kill us, and at the very least totally disrupt the way we live our lives?  It sounds like a sci-fi horror film!

Fear is a fundamental emotion and essential for survival.

It is hardwired into us; we couldn’t have survived as a race without it.  Fear prompts the ‘fight or flight’ response within us, giving us the ability to flee from a marauding sabre tooth tiger by shutting down non-essential functions such as digestion, sending all the blood to the muscles so we can fight or run away.  Or simply freeze you to the spot like a rabbit in headlights.  In more recent times, if the harvest wasn’t sufficient there is a real risk of starvation in the winter months.   Are there enough supplies to survive winter? Wood and fuel, warmth and a safe place to retire? Better buy as much toilet paper and pasta as possible.

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The power of the word

Coping with this hysteria and panic is not helped by the language used by the media and governments.

“We are in a war against an invisible killer” Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

“We are at war…The enemy is invisible and it requires our general mobilization.” President Emmanuel Macro

With the talk of wars and an invisible enemy, who wouldn’t be scared?  But more importantly, this rhetoric is confusing.  The Blitz spirit being invoked involves pulling together, street parties and hunkering down together while the war rages above our heads.  But simultaneously we are being asked to self-isolate and keep away from each other because we are all potential carriers!  It sounds more like the KGB rather than the NHS.

Fear Descends Qi and it affects the Kidneys

In Chinese Medicine the emotion of fear is related to the Kidneys.  Fear, like any emotion, affects our Qi.  More accurately, however, it descends it.  In severe cases, such as sudden fright, this could mean the opening of the bowels.  But in more chronic cases it can affect breathing, so not good if your respiratory system is then affected by Coronavirus.  This is the case regarding all types of energy.  Look at how fear and panic has affected the global financial market – it has plummeted.

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When all is flowing within us, we have these deep reserves to draw on and our deep inner drives can be fuelled with the force of the waters that fill the reservoirs in winter.  Water gives us our drive, will and courage. (Debra Katz, Characters of Wisdom, 2005)

People with strong Qi will avoid the worst effects of COVID19 despite the fact that everybody, no matter their age or gender, may be affected.  Because each individual has a different physical constitution, the manifestations of the disease will vary, and so a single prescription cannot be universally effective for every patient (despite the race to produce a vaccine).   A strong constitutional Qi will also protect you against the pervading fear and panic, allowing you to sort the good information from the bad.  Acupuncture is conducted with patients on a one-to-one basis, and so is more oriented towards providing symptomatic relief than the generic medicines applied during this period.

Strengthening your own Qi

Well, fortunately there are many ways you can do this.   Here are links to some of my earlier blogs that will help you boost your Qi and protect it.  And over the coming days and weeks I will be posting lots of information to help you get through these challenging times!

Rest well

Eat Well

Exercise well

If you have any questions about acupuncture, or any of the topics in my blogs, please do contact me.  Find out more about me, or my treatments  here.