Breathing Techniques for Stress Reduction
Energy Work, Reiki, Self-Care

Breathing Techniques for Stress Reduction and Energy Work

“Breathing is massively practical,” says Belisa Vranich, a psychologist and author of the book ‘Breathe,’ …It’s meditation for people who can’t meditate.” –Source:

Breathing Techniques for Stress Reduction[wproto_divider style=”gap”]What I’m Reading: Breathing Techniques for Stress Reduction

NYT article, “Breathe. Exhale. Repeat: The Benefits of Controlled Breathing

Author’s Key Points

Breath: An Essential of Energy Work

Did you know controlled breathing is also an important part of energy work? In qi gong, breath is considered the second of three essentials to energy work practice. As far back as 168 BCE the Chinese had already been documenting breathing techniques for health (see: 卻穀食氣, Que Gu Shi Qi). Of course, it’s not just breathing for breathing’s sake that makes the practice essential. It’s about integrating the body-mind-spirit through breath, intention and movement/posture. I love this quote from a pupil’s Qi Gong Master on the subject, “movement without breath integration has limited health benefits and practice without mind is a waste of time.”

Energy Work Breathing Techniques

Countless ‘schools’ of energy work also employ mindful breathing techniques to facilitate the shift into altered states of consciousness. Coupled with intention, the breath can also direct different energies into the body (such as Heavenly energy, Earth energy, or the Rays, etc). In Reiki, we regularly use the breath to move Reiki energy through more powerfully. We can blow Reiki symbols into the auric bodies and/or chakras; and/or we can channel Reiki through the breath when we ‘beam’ Reiki into the aura. If you’re interested in exploring the world of energy work and breathing techniques, here are some starting places for you:

Set Your Compass, then Breathe

You can learn to breathe and to breathe mindfully; but to what end? Without a compass setting for your practice, meaningful progress won’t be far in my experience. This is where studying with a teacher or within a system can be helpful if not essential. This is also why I like to teach energy work as a hybrid course with Reiki. In my opinion, it is not enough to know we can effect change with intention and practice. We also need to know why we want to do so. What are we hoping to co-create in this world through our words, actions, and exchanges? It’s this rectification of paradigm, I believe, that facilitates the necessary internal shift(s) that move us towards a more meaningful and peace-filled life.

Why and when do you breathe mindfully?

Has mindful breathing helped you in your life? How? I’d love to hear about it the comments. (PS there’s an excellent version of the Mindfulness of Breathing practice on the Insight Timer for anyone with that iPhone/iPad app, “Anapanasati Breathing Meditation,” by the Samahita Thera Forest Sangha.)

reiki for depression
Reiki, Self-Care

Reiki for Depression: An Opportunity to Reframe Your Experience.

“Reiki for Depression: Patients dealing with the symptoms depression may benefit from participating in Reiki sessions.” (Source)


Article on Reiki for Depression

Reiki for Depression

Author’s Key Points

  • According to the WHO, depression affects approximately 400 million people around the world
  • In addition to working with your therapist and primary health care provider, Reiki can help as an adjunct therapy
  • Benefits of Reiki for those feeling depressed include better mental and physical balance, relaxation, stress-reduction, connection, all while helping to restore a client’s sense of control in their life.
  • Relevant research on the healing method shows Reiki aids in relaxation, reduces the symptoms of depression, and may reduce postoperative depression.
  • Reiki is best served when used in conjunction with other therapies, with multiple treatments over an extended period of time leading to long-term symptom improvement.

In my experience

My clients challenged by depression find Reiki can be encouraging in helping to reframe their experience. In other words, what if you were able to see the same situation in a new light? As a non-forceful energy, it’s encourages us to grow, while providing the support to do so. But it will never do the work for you, ha!! With Reiki, you are always in charge of your healing. All Reiki does is illuminate the areas and stories ready for healing. In this way, it’s like the best cheerleader — letting you know all the while that, “You can do this! You’ve got it! You’re doing it! You are your agent of change!”

Learn to treat yourself

The best part about Reiki is that while it’s helpful to see someone for care, you can also learn to do it yourself for self-healing– treating your body, mind, emotions, intentions and situations in your life. I decided to learn Reiki myself when I became good friends with a Reiki Master/Teacher in San Francisco, Shoshannah Beck (she’s now in Australia). Everything she said just made sense to me– so I thought, “Well, let’s do this already!” Now, 12 years later I use Reiki every day. I use it while driving or on the bus, I use it on my pet, I use it with clients, on my body, thoughts, emotions, objects, situations, in my communications, on the trajectory of my life — you name it! Want to try it for yourself? Come join us for an introductory 7-week course in energy work and Reiki healing. Enroll online; the next course starts April 27th.

Inspire Others

Has Reiki helped you manage your depression? I’d love if you’d share your story in the comments! ♥ Thank you!

Natural prozac alternative: Turmeric
Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Turmeric: A natural prozac alternative for depressive disorders?

Curcuma longa roots: Prozac Alternative Turmeric

2013 Study on Turmeric: A safe and natural Prozac alternative?

Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Researcher Highlights

  • Adverse effects of antidepressants continue to impel researchers to find safer alternatives
  • In this study, (1) group I received fluoxetine 20 mg/day in the morning (2) group II received curcumin 1000 mg/day (500 mg BD, containing total curcuminoids 88% and volatile oils 7% from rhizomes of Curcuma longa Linn); group III received fluoxetine 20 mg/day and curcumin 1000 mg/day (500 mg BD).
  • Curcumin dose was calculated using data from Chinese medicine using dry rhizome of Curcuma longa at 3–9 g/70 kg adult for treatment of depression like disorders.
  • Curcumin has been shown to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, anti-cancer and neuroprotective properties.
  • Curcumin’s anti-depressant effects include: “Neurogenesis in the hippocampus and rise in the serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline brain levels by inhibiting monoamine oxidase enzyme.”
  • Curcumin was found to be equivalent to fluoxetine in terms of change in Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D17) score from baseline after six weeks of treatment.

With researchers concluding, “curcumin may be an effective and safe agent when used as a modality of treatment in patients of MDD without concurrent suicidal ideation or other psychotic disorders,” turmeric may just be the safe Prozac alternative they’ve been looking for!

Turmeric in Chinese Herbal Medicine

Interestingly enough, in Chinese medicine we have three different herbs that come from the plant genus Curcuma: 郁金 (Yu Jin), 姜黄 (Jiang Huang), and 莪术 (E Zhu). Jiang Huang is the only herb that exclusively comes from Curcuma longa (that which is cited above). However, Yu Jin can also come from this plant (specifically from the root tuber, as opposed to the rhizome, which is Jiang Huang).


While, Jiang Huang, Yu Jin and E Zhu have unique properties and are used to treat different symptoms and signs in Chinese medicine, these three herbs are all in the same class of herb: Herbs that Regulate the Blood. For this reason, in our medicine, Jiang Huang is considered contraindicated during pregnancy and Yu Jin contraindicated in case of obstruction due to qi deficiency.

As always, please consult a certified herbalist to make sure an herb is appropriate for your condition and your constitution before deciding on what would constitute a safe Prozac alternative for you.


Auricular acupuncture for depression

Acupuncture for Depression: Working with the Cerebellum

Acupuncture for depression

What we call depression can feel very different from one person to the next. In the book, “Dragon Rises and Red Bird Flies: Psychology & Chinese Medicine,” author Leon Hammer, MD lists 13 different types of depression, each with their own diagnosis. It’s important to get a correct differential diagnosis in order to get benefit from treatment. Specifically, acupuncture for depression will look different depending on the pattern being treated. Some patients will benefit from e-stim, while others may not. Some might need many needles, while others might need as few needles as possible.

Recently, I had a patient in my office for whom the auricular point “Cerebellum” was particularly active. We were treating his depression and anxiety, in his feeling overwhelmed by all the things he had going on and had to manage in life. I was curious for sure, as I knew the cerebellum was important for physical balance; but what did it have to do with emotions?

What is the cerebellum?

Cerebellum animation smallThe cerebellum along with the brainstem comprise the “reptilian brain” in us humans. This is the oldest part of the brain; it is associated with our body’s survival and instinct. When we get in fight-flight-freeze mode, we can thank this part of our brain.

What does the cerebellum do?

The cerebellum coordinates voluntary movement as it receives information from the sensory systems, spinal cord, and other parts of the brain. Interestingly, “[a]lthough the cerebellum accounts for approximately 10% of the brain’s volume, it contains over 50% of the total number of neurons in the brain.” The cerebellum helps:

  • maintain balance and posture
  • coordination
  • motor learning
  • cognitive functions, such as language

The cerebellum and emotion

Subjective experience

In a very small 2006 study, researchers found, “patients with cerebellar damage showed impairment in the subjective experience of pleasant feelings in response to happiness-evoking stimuli.” For those of you quite knowledgeable in Western medicine, you might find it interesting to learn more about seratonin and the cerebellum.


In his 2013 handbook on the Cerebellum and Cerebellar Disorders, Schutter writes, “Damage to cerebellar structures can lead to marked personality changes, emotion dysregulation and blunting of affect and structural abnormalities of the cerebellum have been reported in several psychopathological conditions.” He explains the cerebellum’s affect on motivation, emotion and action likely stem from its “rich connections” to the limbic system (associated with our emotions and memories) and cerebral cortex.
Auricular acupuncture for depression


In 2005, researchers Schutter and van Honk concluded, “an increasing body of empirical evidence indicates that the cerebellum may be involved in emotion regulation. Both functional and structural abnormalities of the cerebellum have been demonstrated in emotional disorders, including depression and schizophrenia.”

Auricular acupuncture for depression

What I love about auricular acupuncture is how specific we can get. Through auricular maps designed by the Chinese, French and Germans, we can find points to treat the cerebellum or other brain and/or organ parts in the body. While the image I’ve posted here (see: ear) has the cerebellum point on the front, the point I used in my treatment was an alternate location found on the back of the ear.

There is no specific ‘point prescription’ for depression; for as I mentioned, the illness can take many forms. Auricular acupuncture for depression may include the points I’ve mapped here; it may also include many other, different points. The most important is that you work with a Chinese medicine practitioner in receiving a proper differential diagnosis.

Studies Cited

Brain Structures Involved in Dealing with Fear and Stress (PTSD)

Treating PTSD with Acupuncture

What is PTSD?

After experiencing a life-threatening event or trauma, an individual may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. This disorder is not just something that affects our veterans, but can arise in various populations affected by different kinds of trauma. The National Center of PTSD emphasizes that trauma can be something you hear, witness, or personally experience (as happening to you), and can include:

  • Combat exposure
  • Child sexual or physical abuse
  • Terrorist attack
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Serious accidents, like a car wreck
  • Natural disasters (i.e. fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, etc)

Not mentioned in this list is chronic emotional abuse; however, I believe it would be appropriate to add it (see: Complex PTSD). To this end, if saying “no” is not a part of your vocabulary, you might consider reading this short piece, Codependency, Trauma and the Fawn Response, by therapist Pete Walker and/or Alice Miller’s Drama of the Gifted Child.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

The four key symptoms of this disorder include (1) Reliving the event; (2) Avoidance; (3) Hyperarousal; and (4) Negative changes in emotions, thoughts and beliefs. Beyond these, individuals with PTSD might also experience difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and chronic pain among other symptoms.

The Fight or Flight Response

PTSD and Acupuncture

Acupuncture’s popularity as an adjunctive therapy for PTSD (alongside counseling and medication) continues to grow. I’m continually amazed at how specific we can get with auricular acupuncture treatment — see the areas affected in the fight or flight response to the right? We have acupoints that specifically target the amygdala, hypothalamus, cortisol, and ACTH. Pretty amazing!

Seeking Care

There is a long list of acupuncture clinics nationwide that offer no-cost or low-cost care to Veterans in particular. For everyone else, one-on-one treatments are becoming more affordable as many insurance carriers now reimburse for acupuncture; and there are also community clinics that offer low cost treatment held in group settings.

Healing Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease
Book Review, Chinese Herbs & Supplements, Self-Care

Healing Spices: How to Use Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease

Healing Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease

Food is our first medicine

Ever wonder why they serve ginger with sushi? Not only does ginger warm the belly–a good balance for all that cold, raw fish about to go into the stomach–but it also helps prevent toxicity (in this case, seafood toxicity). Helpful, right? Knowing that before you head to the sushi restaurant might even be more helpful!

Healing spices

Spices are a universal gift to our health, as they taste great and are easy to obtain. Chinese medicine makes use of a number of them; meanwhile Western medicine continues to deepen their understanding of the vast benefits that come with choosing the right herb/spice for one’s constitution and condition.

A few years ago a book came out highlighting the hidden benefits of your spice rack, “Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease.” It’s quite beautiful and a nice addition to Paul Pitchford’s excellent book on nutrition and Chinese medicine, “Healing with Whole Foods.” Even better, the book is even available through the public library.

Get to know your herbs and spices

See below for a starter list of spices and their studied effects within Western medicine, as cited and published on Huffington Post. In Chinese medicine, we use a few of these regularly for additional health benefits; for these medicinals I’ve included the Chinese medicine name below the English.


As always, food is medicine; too much of one thing isn’t always a good thing. Before you start changing your diet, be sure to discuss your plan with a healthcare professional to avoid herb-drug interactions or other unwanted side effects.


Looks Like

Potential Health Benefits*


Healing Spices: Allspice
  • may help combat prostate cancer
Healing Spices: Cinnamon
  • lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
  • reduces proliferation of leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells
  • may help to alleviate tremors and poor mobility in Parkinson’s disease
Healing Spices: Nutmeg
  • relieves symptoms of depression


  • high in antioxidants
  • essential oil of oregano was found to kill drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus

Pepper, Black

胡椒 (Hu Jiao)

  • manganese and copper content supports metabolism and maintain bone health
  • peperine was found to halt, and even reverse, fatty liver disease in mice


Healing Spices: Rosemary
  • carnosic acid content protects retinas from degeneration (may help to prevent or halt age-related macular degeneration)


Healing Spices: Sage
  • may increase cognitive performance in Alzheimer’s disease
Healing Spices: Turmeric
  • reduces tenderness and swelling in arthritic joints

* Studies cited on Huffington Post article, “8 Herbs And Spices That Fight Off Disease.” A reminder: The information presented on this web site is not intended to take the place of your personal physician’s advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Drama of the Gifted Child: Oversensitivity, aggression, depression and perfectionism
Book Review, Self-Care

Struggle with oversensitivity, aggression, depression, and/or perfectionism?

I recently came across this book, The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for True Self by Alice Miller. It was originally published under the title, “Prisoners of Childhood.” I was struck by the name and curious to learn more. It didn’t take long until this book knocked my socks off.

Narcissism versus Narcissist

Miller explains children have the need to go through a period of narcissism as a stage in development before they will develop “spontaneous pleasure in sharing and giving” (viii). If this process is disturbed, as with an insecure parent or other individual closest to the child, the child learns to respond to the insecurity intuitively. Eventually and inevitably, the child ends up equating this responsibility with his/her own security.

Grandiosity and Depression

“In fact grandiosity [i.e. being and needing admiration; needing to excel brilliantly] is the defense against depression, and depression is the defense against the real pain over the loss of the self.” (38)

In learning to tend to the feelings of another without the equal opportunity to experience one’s own jealousy, envy, anger, loneliness, impotence, or anxiety, Miller explains a child begins to identify with a false self — the self that is praised for its achievements. It’s not before long fantasies of grandiosity and/or depression set in as these children try to earn their worth in the world through what they do as opposed to finding worth in who they are inherently.

One of the quotes from Miller’s patients I found most moving came from a forty-year-old woman after experiencing a long depressive phase:

Nevertheless, for the first time I find life really worth living. Perhaps this is because, for the first time, I have the feeling that I am really living my own life. …I can understand my suicidal ideas better now, especially those I had in my youth — it seemed pointless to carry on because in a way I had always been living a life that wasn’t mine, that I didn’t want, and that I was ready to throw away. (58)

How powerful, to realize that which we’ve been striving for [i.e. the false self] is unattainable, undesirable and unnecessary!

If this pattern sounds familiar to you in your life, you might consider learning more by reading Miller’s work and discussing with a therapist. Reiki/energy work is a good way to work with and release underlying emotional patterns as well.

Awareness is the first step to any change; and there is no time that is too late to see clearly. Fear not — Whenever you get there, you’ve arrived right on time!

May you be well,


Where Is God Located In the Brain? Importance of Religion Is Related To Thickness Of The Cerebral Cortex (Article/Studies, Medical Daily)

The brain and depression

Cerebral Cortex and DepressionResearchers now believe the thickness of one’s cerebral cortex may be linked to one’s sense of religion and/or spirituality, as reported in Medical Daily’s article, “Where Is God Located In the Brain? Importance of Religion Is Related To Thickness Of The Cerebral Cortex.” The same team interestingly found, not surprisingly, that those who expressed “a strong interest” in religion not only had thicker cortices over both right and left brain hemispheres, but were 90% less at risk for developing major depression. 

While the researchers are not saying spirituality thickens the cortices, it was also notable that a different study out of University of Missouri found (when researching the brain for signs of spirituality), that “transcendence is associated with decreased right parietal lobe functioning, while other aspects of spiritual functioning are related to increased activity in the frontal lobe.”

The brain and acupuncture

What I love about auricular acupuncture (a microsystem of acupuncture, in which we treat the ear as a homunculus of the body) is how specific we can get. The system has been greatly studied and practiced by the Germans the French in addition to the Chinese. When I read articles like the one I mentioned above, I get excited thinking, “We have a point for that!” And we do:

  • Prefontal Cortex
  • Frontal Cortex
  • Parietal Cortex
  • Temporal Cortex
  • Occipital Cortex

These are all specific acupuncture points we can stimulate on the ear with needles or estim.

Acupuncture and depression

Even though we can treat areas of the brain associated with worry or emotional trauma, like the prefrontal cortex or hippocampus, to the Chinese medicine practitioner, this would be a limited treatment. We consider all factors of disease when coming up with a diagnosis, factors such as: environmental triggers, diet, lifestyle, nutrition, constitution, organ and emotional imbalance.

Feeling concerned about your mental states? Consider adding Chinese medicine to your wellness plan.

Chinese Herbs & Supplements

Psychobiotics: How gut bacteria mess with your mind (Article, New Scientist)

Gut Bacteria's Effect on the Mind

In the latest New Scientist, professor of anatomy and neuroscience, John Cryan, and Timothy Dinan, professor of psychiatry (University College Cork, Ireland) discuss “Psychobiotics: How gut bacteria mess with your mind.”

Probiotics today are becoming more and more understood and appreciated for their ability not just to normalize a body’s balance after antibiotic use, but as a treatment in their own right. As discussed in my earlier piece, “Just Who Do You Think You Are,” medical professionals have been turning to probiotics to assist in treating everything from stress to anxiety, depression, eczema, allergy, and more.

It would be easy to lump “probiotics” into one category; but it’s true there are many different strains, and some have been studied for their specific benefits while others have not. New Scientist highlights the following promising strains for their health benefits:

  • Bacteroides fragilis, autism
  • Bifidobacterium infantis, depression
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus, anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

As well as the following combination of strains:

  • Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum, anxiety and depression

To know if your probiotic has been studied in humans, call the company directly; it’s amazing what you can find out! Remember, more doesn’t always mean better — so don’t assume because a product has 80 billion cells of probiotics that it has what you need. Strains point more to the condition being treated, while the number of cells speak more to degree of imbalance. A product that offers 6 billion cells may be all that’s needed for one, while someone else may need significantly more than that!

Another thing to be aware of is something called “prebiotic.” The prebiotic is a fiber that you can think of is like food for the probiotic. Well, guess what? Good bacteria and bad bacteria both like to eat! So if you have a gut imbalance, you might find taking a high initial dose of probiotic results in a lot of gas and discomfort; this is the byproduct of bad bacteria’s healthy eating habits. Once the good bacteria is replenished (keeping the bad bacteria in check), this will no longer be an issue. For this reason, I recommend folks start low and build up. This is easy to do if you buy capsules or a powder — you can start with one cap per dose (or tip out half a capsule, etc) and gradually work up to your target dose.

Think you might benefit from probiotics, but not sure where to go from here? Contact me for an appointment today.

Acupuncture Points Show High Oxygen Pressure Levels

Studies Show Electroacupuncture Stops Pain

electroacupuncture stops painMRI and biochemistry show electroacupuncture stops pain

In their latest Acupuncture News, Healthcare Medicine Institute (Health CMI) reports, “MRI and Biochemistry Confirm Acupuncture Stops Pain.” In the article, they cite a number of studies that examine the use of new imaging techniques that elucidate acupoints and electroacupuncture, the stimulation of those points with weak electrical current.

Cited in the article is a study just published in Anesthesiology – The Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, in which researchers conclude:

“Electroacupuncture blocks pain by activating a variety of bioactive chemicals through peripheral, spinal, and supraspinal mechanisms. These include opioids, which desensitize peripheral nociceptors and reduce proinflammatory cytokines peripherally and in the spinal cord, and serotonin and norepinephrine, which decrease spinal N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunit GluN1 phosphorylation.”

What is electroacupuncture?

While acupuncture, the needling of acupoints, has been around for thousands of years, electroacupuncture is a relatively new phenomenon; some folks date the treatment as early as the 1800s, while others place it as late as 1958. Today, we can send a weak current through two acupuncture points using a device and two alligator clip wires. Alternatively, we can use a device that will stimulate a point without the use of needles.Electroacupuncture stops pain, Acupuncture Points Show High Oxygen Pressure Levels

The treatment is comfortable and typically lasts a few minutes up to 45 minutes, depending on what’s being treated with which device. (Most folks report feeling a tingling sensation at the local site that can sometimes radiate down the channel.) Not only is electroacupuncture helpful for treating pain, but also for treating anxiety and depression.

‘Proof’ of Acupuncture Points

The imaging findings cited in the article are quite exciting as science has been struggling to confirm empirically what acupuncturists and their patients have known for millennia: acupuncture points are real. Now by way of CT scan, researchers have found higher densities of micro-vessels at acupoint locations. In their study published December 2013 in the Journal of Electron Spectroscopy and Related Phenomena, they concluded, “there were large numbers of involutedly microvascular structure in the acupoint areas. Nevertheless, in non-acupoints area, the microvascular structure was relatively simple and flat.”

The adjacent image is from another imaging technology, an amperometric oxygen microsensor, that detects partial oxygen pressure variations at various locations. (I recommend reading Health CMI’s article in full to learn more.) Researchers found acupuncture points showed statistically-significant, relatively higher pO2 levels as compared to other regions.

Feel you might be a good candidate for electroacupuncture treatment? Contact Melissa for an appointment today.