What is Cupping Therapy?

by Katherine Casey, LAc

The history of cupping is documented in the medical histories of many parts of the world, including countries of Africa, Europe, the Middle East, as well as Asian countries. Cupping is the practice of applying specially designed cups to the skin using suction for the purpose of relieving muscle pain, reducing swelling, and increasing the circulation of blood and qi to an injured area. It can be used to assist in lymphatic drainage and in reducing cellulite. Cupping can also aid in alleviating digestive issues, such as constipation. Facial cupping can aid in the reduction of fine lines and facial puffiness.

Historically all kinds of items were used for cupping– animal horns, bamboo, stone, and sea shells are some of the materials used for cupping. Nowadays, in the modern clinic setting specially designed glass cups are used, as well as cups made of polycarbonate plastic or silicone, all of which can be easily cleaned after use.

How does it work? In order to answer this question let’s compare massage therapy and cupping. Massage therapy creates “positive pressure” by compressing tissue to relieve muscle tension. In constrast, cupping uses suction to create “negative pressure.” The suction action of cupping expands and opens up the layers of body tissue, allowing better circulation of blood and qi.

Cupping will often leave round marks, commonly referred to as bruises, though the marks are not true bruises, like those that occur from a compression injury. The marks gradually disappear a few days after treatment.

Behavioral Health for Mind, Body, and Spirit Care

from Janice Glasscock, LCSW

Behavioral health care and mental health care focus on thought processes and emotions, on personal narrative, and helping the mind communicate with the brain. This allows us to better understand our own stories and feelings so that we can make better decisions and act towards healing.

Behavioral and mental health care is especially useful for people in situations that feel stuck, full of loss or fear, and/or during large transitions. These situations can include an unhealthy pattern in a relationship, moving into new parenthood, and launching children from home. They can also be about dealing with a life threatening health condition or diagnosis, stage of life transitions like aging or health concerns, work place or work relationship concerns, or the loss of a significant relationship.

Approximately 67% of people with behavioral or mental health concerns do not receive treatment, and these concerns account for about half of disability days from work. Depression is the #1 condition currently affecting health care costs right now, and it has a global and pervasive impact on health issues and conditions.

We can improve our overall sense of well-being, health, and quality of life by paying attention to our behavioral and mental health as a part of our mind, body, and spirit interplay. This means paying attention to our thinking and cognitive processes, and to our decisions and actions. Strong behavioral and mental health helps with:

  • positive, effective work and personal relationships
  • good life choices and lifestyle development
  • physical health/well-being
  • handling natural ups and downs of life, and coping during life crises
  • self-discovery and personal growth

Psychotherapy as treatment for behavioral and mental health concerns is an evidence-based way to reduce depression and anxiety and more effectively cope and problem solve. It has long-lasting benefits, and helps to address chronic low and high levels of stress that are on-going contributors to compromised health and well-being.

Within a positive, safe, and constructive relationship with a professional, psychotherapy helps identify and better understand cognitive sources of unease, and to change/broaden thinking about both the problems of daily living and the catastrophic, all-consuming psychological and emotional crises from which we need recovery. It is a great modality to help us take action on the paths of healing.

The Benefits of Mindfulness Practice

from Elmo Shade

The most common reasons people come to a Mindfulness Practice are

  1. Physical pain or chronic pain
  2. Emotional pain due to loss, death, or serious or potentially fatal diagnosis
  3. Inability to manage the day to day stressors of life

The benefits of mindfulness are known and well-documented. It reduces levels of stress, meaning the autonomic nervous system is not in fight, flight, or freeze mode. This then reduces both anxiety and depression, reduces fatigue and burnout, and reduces periods of restlessness. This leads to an increased ability to pay attention and concentrate and higher cognitive performance, particularly while learning. It enhances hormonal balance for women, and enhances the immune system of men and women.

Chronic pain, many of our physical ailments, and even diseases that we are experiencing are not actually illnesses or diseases. They are a result of the body system storing stress and pain that has never actually been released in a healthy manner. Mindfulness helps to reduce the discomfort of pain, both emotional and physical, and increases our capacity for compassion for ourselves and others.

Because Mindfulness Practice is about paying attention to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energies, it often leads to increased levels of energy. It can decrease fatigue and increase stamina. This higher energy level then brings increased movement. The American Psychiatric Association shows we spend 6-12 hours a day not moving, and this does not count the time we spend sleeping. Having the energy to move is a tremendous benefit.

Mindfulness Practice is evidence-based and proven to benefit quality of life through the reduction of physical pain, emotional pain, and chronic stress. Our collective stress levels are higher than they have ever been, especially for women, and that takes a toll on our health. We can bring ourselves back into balance through mindfulness.

Recovery Yoga

It is surprising how much people are recovering from stuff, and not just AA, not just addicts and alcoholics, but more people are given prescription drugs because of a car accident or an injury at work or something like that, and then they slip into a way of living that they are not used to, and it comes with strange behaviors. I have been in AA for 17 or 18 years, and I used to think alcoholics and addicts are different, but the more I interact with people in recovery, the more I see people being susceptible to addiction because of the way the medical practice uses prescription drugs.

One of the big things in Recovery and in Yoga, particularly the yoga tradition I work with, is the idea of relationship, and that’s what’s been interrupted. Often the doctors that prescribe these drugs don’t have enough time to spend with people and so instead of getting help, people just get medicine, and that breaks down the relationship. It is through relationship with people that we understand ourselves better.

The basis of our yoga is what is my mind doing, what is my heart doing, what is my breath doing. This is not the basis of most yoga, which is more about stretching and getting farther along in some capacity. Instead of trying to get toward a goal, we develop relationship with the body and with the teacher, and then the body begins to trust itself a little bit more, letting go of what holds you back and removing obstacles in your body, in your mind, and in your heart. This approach can be hard for people who haven’t been in a really difficult place to comprehend, because it goes against the norm to say, “I’m not going to push my body too far, I’m not going to work overly hard, I am just going to take care of myself.”

It is counterintuitive, but my body responds better to starting with slow, simple movements, simple breathing, and mental focus on things that are not complex. These are small steps that help your body trust your decisions again. You have broken your body’s judgment when you think you have to turn to a pill or some kind of chemical. Those chemicals work so that they change your body so that your body needs that chemical, so it’s a downward spiral, chaining the body, so that it is no longer addressing what it was originally addressing, and it is just this chemical relationship. When you get to a very difficult place in life and experience and you say this is no longer working, then you are willing to say, “I’m looking at what’s going on, and it’s hard to come out of it.” But simple practice, simple breathing, simple movements all build this idea of trust so that your body starts to respond to your judgment again.

Rebuilding this trust doesn’t happen over a week or a month, but over time, which is why the relationship is so important. Start with a teacher for guidance, and then work with yourself so that when you sit still with your mind, breath, and body, you can inquire, “What does my body need at this moment?” Rather than provide the solution, you are just constantly asking, and through that process of asking, the answers come; you don’t have to seek them. The body instinctively knows I shouldn’t move this far or hard in this pose because it is causing strain in my back or in my shoulder. Over time, as I become more sensitive to that, my body starts to open up its physical capacity. I’m not trying to do more, but because I am listening to what my body says, my body will open up and allow more to happen because it knows I am listening. I can do more now in my 40s than I could in my 20s.

The difficulty with this practice is that it is a process. We are used to paying for something, getting it, and leaving. We are not used to someone saying, “Just be here, stay here for a few minutes and be at peace.” But this is how we rebuild these broken relationships, especially the trust we have broken with our bodies.

The Benefits of Yoga at Any Age

People derive different kinds of benefits from a yoga practice. Yoga and other eastern practices differ from most western forms of physical activity because you really have to incorporate the mind into the practice. With aerobic oriented activity like running or swimming, you can just let your mind drift off. With yoga, the mind focus brings a greater benefit in addition to the physical benefits of greater strength, flexibility, and balance. A lot of people sleep better, feel calmer, and breathe better. You don’t have to go in with the intention to get those benefits, they just result from doing a good yoga asana practice.

Yoga also helps people find what is challenging for them, be it physical, mental, or emotional, and helps find a way to address it. People often do yoga positions way too quickly. They will say their shoulder hurts, and I’ll say give it 6 months. Give pain time to resolve. Pain is a very good teacher and yoga is not a pain free practice. When people come to class with pain, they need to recognize that yoga is not an immediate cure all but that there are great benefits to a regular practice.

Yoga is a practice for people of all levels. HaLe’ has students ages 20 to 80, so don’t let fitness or age keep you away. Find a teacher that resonates with you and then stick with them. Don’t try for a lot of variety; go deeper instead of wider. Allow your class to become a community that develops over time. That’s a very supportive group to be in.

Also, don’t avoid props and don’t underestimate restorative yoga. Props like blocks, straps, and chairs make yoga much more accessible to people and allows them to achieve a comfortable practice with a properly aligned body. Restorative yoga is key to improving breath, awareness, and observations skills, even though a lot of people really resist it when they are new to yoga practice because they feel restless, want to exercise, and don’t see the value. It is an important part of a yoga practice; don’t ignore it.

A yoga practice, because it incorporates mind and body instead of being just body, comes with a lot of benefits. A good asana practice should be both convenient and enjoyable, and doing the yoga postures properly has different benefits for everyone. Most of all, though, don’t take it too seriously. It should also be fun.

No Sweat Yoga for Runners

A lot of runners don’t know the two types of stretching that help running: Pre and Post. Pre-run stretches need to be focused on warming up the area, especially legs and hips, and creating blood flow and some flexibility. Stretches should not be held for very long, only two or three breaths, because you can overtax a muscle by stretching it and if you do that before you start, it will make you feel weaker during your run. Pre-run stretching should be about 5 min and focused on getting heat and blood flow into the areas you’ll be using.

Post-run stretches are different from pre-run stretches. They should be held for longer, about 6 or 7 breaths, and will help work out any tightness. It is important to really focus on the breath, taking nice deep breaths with full exhales to help clear the body of lactic acid. There also is no concern about over stressing or tiring the muscles through stretching because this is when you want them to relax.

A regular yoga practice is also of great benefit to runners. If you think you’re just running with your legs, you’re not going to run very long. Beyond the usual focus on the legs and hips, the calf muscles, hamstrings, and the flexibility of the hips allow the whole pelvic area to work efficiently. Ultimately what you are trying to achieve is the strength and flexibility to allow your body systems to work together and avoid injury.

Yoga is about balance and teaching our bodies how everything is connected and how it all works together. All movement comes from the core, and so strengthening the core and teaching the body how to move fluidly without overstressing one particular part of the body will allow you to run faster, longer, and to avoid injury, so that running can become a lifelong adventure.


Liz Trinkler has been running for 40 years without injury and has completed 5 marathons. She teaches Ha.Lé Yoga on Mondays and Wednesdays 12:00-12:50.

What is Acupuncture and How Does It Work?

by Katherine Casey, LAc

Just as there is a blood circulatory system, there is also a circulatory system for energy, or qi (pronounced chi). Qi flows continuously in a channel system, just like blood flows continuously in the circulatory system. The distribution of blood and qi throughout the body brings nourishment to all of its organs and systems, right down to the cellular level, and supports all of its functions.

Along these channels are acupuncture points, each with a unique property and purpose. A combination of points is selected by the practitioner according to the needs of the client receiving the acupuncture treatment. Placing needles in these acupuncture points serves to deliver a message to the qi flowing in the channels–perhaps to nourish a part of the body that has been injured, or to nourish an organ that is in a state of deficiency. For example, if the client has a cold, this would indicate a deficiency in the lungs. The points selected for treatment would address this deficiency, sending a message for the qi to support the lungs and bring them back to a healthier state.

The body’s natural state is one of health, but we sometimes find ourselves out of that natural state due to the stresses of daily life. Sleep patterns, diet, exercise, stress caused by working environments and life events, all have an effect on the state of our health. The objective of acupuncture is to bring the body back to that natural state of health, by supporting its own self healing capabilities. The acupuncture practitioner and the client are equal partners in this healing process.

Pelvic Health: No Where To Go But Inward

Pelvic health has a huge effect on quality of life. Daily activities influence pelvic health in ways we may not be aware, like sitting postures, bathroom habits, etc. Learning what your pelvis holds and how it is interrelated to your anatomy can be very empowering. Gaining this knowledge helps increase awareness and appreciation for the pelvis and its important functions as the floor to the spine, connector of hips and pelvis, holder of organs and babies, etc.  Understanding what “normal” pelvic floor function is can be a starting point of awareness.

Dysfunction in pelvic health happens across the population, from pediatric to elderly, and can be affected by more things than having babies and aging. Improving pelvic function often helps with pain that is not responding to other therapies, especially low back pain, as well as bowel and bladder dysfunction, painful intercourse, and lumbar and spine dysfunction. The pelvic floor depends on the spine, abdomen, breath, and lower and upper extremity strength and function. Conditions such as low blood pressure and bowel and bladder issues may be directly related to pelvic dysfunction.

There are simple daily habits you can be aware of to bring better health to your pelvic area, including certain postures, bowel and bladder habits, and exercises. Histories of trauma, like sexual or physical trauma, pregnancy, birth, or surgery can all have an effect on pelvic health.

The most important starting place, though, is to learn to breathe into the pelvis. When you inhale, bring your breath all the way down to your vagina and/or perineum, and then fill the diaphragm, and then the chest. The pelvis is a body part you can’t see, and once you can be still enough to connect with it, there is an awareness that will open up. So be still, be with the breath, and breathe into the pelvis for pelvic health.

Ayurveda: How to Be Healthy for You

Ayurveda is the oldest form of medicine. It teaches us that everyone has a different constitution, and what works for one person doesn’t work for another. A lot of times people compare themselves to others and try to do what they did in order to get the same results. We might eat a lot of carbs, or eat a lot of protein, or eat according to various fads and diets, and then we wonder why other people got the results we wanted, but we did not.

We are each born with a specific constitution, and it doesn’t change. Even twins will have different constitutions. Once you know your constitution, you can figure out what’s better for your body. Ayurveda simplifies the guessing game because it tells you more about what will work and takes the pressure out of how to stay healthy.

We can feel so confused by health and it gets overwhelming. Ayurveda works, and is not a fad diet but a different way of understanding your own unique body, which is what separates it from all these other options. Find your constitution, find what works best for you, and fix your imbalances based on what is right for your body. Ayurveda teaches how to be healthy for you.

Ayurvedic Cleanse Recipe: Tridoshic Kitchari

Tridoshic Kitchari is a stew type meal that is prepared from basmati rice and split mung dal. During a cleanse, appropriate vegetables provide texture, flavor, and an important source of fiber. Kitchari is very easy to digest, which makes it a wonderful food for any cleansing regimen. It allows the digestive system to rest, allocating extra energy to the body’s natural detoxification processes. The quantities in this recipe provide a good starting point for a day’s supply of kitchari, but as you learn your preferences and habits, you are welcome to adjust the quantities to better fit your needs.


• 1 cup white basmati rice

• 1/2 cup yellow mung dal

• 2 tablespoons ghee

• Spices (or 1 tablespoon kitchari spice mix)

• 1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds

• 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

• 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

• 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder

• 1/2 teaspoon fennel powder

• 1 pinch hing (asafoetida)

• 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

• 1 teaspoon natural mineral salt

• 6 cups water

• 2 cups easily digestible vegetables (such as asparagus, carrots, celery, green beans, summer

squash, sweet potato, or zucchini)

Soak the split mung dal overnight (or for at least four hours). Strain the soaking water, combine with the rice and rinse the mixture at least twice, or until the water runs clear, and set aside. In a medium saucepan or soup pot, warm the ghee over medium heat. Add the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and sauté for a couple of minutes, until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the turmeric, coriander, fennel, hing, and fresh ginger. Stir briefly, until aromatic. Stir the rice and dal mixture into the spices and sauté for a few moments, stirring constantly. Add the 6 cups of water, turn heat to high, and bring to a boil. When the soup comes to a boil, stir in the salt, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about forty minutes. Meanwhile, cut your vegetables into small, bite-sized pieces. About halfway through the kitchari’s cooking process, stir in the vegetables and allow the stew to return to a boil. Continue to simmer until the rice, dal, and vegetables are fully cooked. Remove from heat, cool, and serve. Note: some vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, might require more cooking time and may be added earlier, if necessary.

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