Archive for tag: classes

Last Chance

This is it -- my last chance to say things in the National University of Health Sciences Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine blog. I've said a lot of stuff each week over the past couple of years... some mildly interesting, maybe helpful, and probably a lot of things that only I cared about. Sorry, not sorry.

So, here's everything else I thought about saying and never put into an actual blog. Let's call these the bloglets.

1. Everything is the same as it used to be.

2015-08-13_cdNothing's really new--from medicine to pop culture. People freak out about texting while driving. Really? Sure, it's dangerous and awful, but is it really that different than 15 years ago when we used to drive around with a binder of CDs on the passenger seat and flip through looking for the next one to pop in and listen to? Remember that time in 7th grade when you and your friends thought you made up "LYLAS" to write it yearbooks, only to hear your mom say that they used to write, it, too? Now it's vibration--everyone's talking about raising your vibration or changing your vibration for optimal health and wellness. Think it's a new concept? Think again. Last night I was reading about 19th-century psychic Edgar Cayce and the idea that each thought, feeling, or experience you have changes your vibration. Everything is energy, science says, so who can argue with that?

2. What are people doing with laptops in the classroom?

2015-08-13_pplWhen I started this program, I wondered why some students would pop open a laptop and stare at it through an entire class. What were they doing? My guesses were: 50% on Facebook, 20% Netflix, 20% frantically finishing up homework for another class, and likely just 10% doing anything related to the class we were in (this was Dave--you take great notes on your tablet and you've bought shoes online as far as I know). I started sitting behind people just to see how accurate I was. What did I find? Lots of online shopping. Are our classes that stressful that an online shoe purchase is in order? I vowed I wouldn't bring my laptop and tune out during a class… then my final trimester happened. Somehow I was transformed into that person--I hit the seat and I flipped open my laptop within seconds. In my defense I'm generally doing productive things--googling the ingredients of the liniment Dr. Stretch just mentioned, writing this blog, grading student papers, scheduling my kids' dentist appointments, etc.--but still, I'm staring at that screen. Ooops.

3. Favorite professor moments.

I didn't do this one, because I thought it would be rude to simply copy my commencement speech and paste it into a blog post. Looks like you'll have to attend graduation to hear these.

4. I always wanted to interview a student who was dual-enrolled in the Naturopathic doctorate program and the AOM program, and also the Doctor of Chiropractic program and the AOM program.

2015-08-13_aI had Nolan right at my fingertips for so long--we could have had the perspective of a yogi doctor learning acupuncture. Wow. I know people are always wondering what the differences are between the various medical programs, and I thought I'd be the person to try to hash some of that out publicly. Nope. Never got around to that.

Nolan Lee, DC, and current MSAc student:
"Acupuncture is a fantastic complement to what I do as a chiropractic physician. It makes my practice valuable to a whole different population of patients who do not necessarily seek chiropractic care, but are open to acupuncture. An MSAc degree helps to better understand this age-old art that is so rich and complex in its applications and theories."

5. ...And I'd like to introduce Maile Horita, who will be taking over the AOM blog next trimester!

2015-08-13_newMaile has experience with writing an oriental medicine blog already, and I've already given a great idea for content to get started with (see #4). Just kidding--write about your passions! I'm looking forward to reading her blogs in the future.

Thanks for all of the support over the past three years, community. I'll probably accidentally drive here a few times by mistake out of habit, but other than that, I'm OUT! 

Put Those Hands Together When You Pray

If you don't pray, put them together anyway. In the age of anything goes, I've taken to the lazy practice of praying silently in my head while lying in bed at night. I don't know where my hands are exactly, but they sure aren't folded nicely in front of my chest like the iconic prayer image of the olden days.

Who cares? Why bother pressing your hands together and holding them in that fairly awkward position that drove me nuts as a Catholic school kid? I'll be the first to admit that I let my fingers fall and intertwine into the sloppy prayer paws pose as soon as the priest looked the other direction.

Now I realize I was screwing myself out of some real benefits. Sure, God was probably disappointed in my faulty direction following, but I'm not focusing on the spiritual deficit here. I'm focusing on the physical and even the psychological benefits I -- and many other lazy prayers -- had been missing out on all my young life.

This whole conversation hinges on one important point -- an acupuncture point -- called Pericardium 6, or "PC6" as we call it, because again we're all too lazy to stick to the formalities in life. What does PC6 have to do with prayer paws (as my kids call them)? This now famous spot, two inches proximal to the inner wrist crease, has been dubbed the most researched acupoints of the modern day. You know those "anti-nausea" motion-sickness type bracelet bands, with the ball that presses into the inner wrist? That thing's stimulating good ole PC6.

Why is PC6 such a beneficial acupoint? Our trusty guide to acupuncture points and meridians and their energetic functions is a beefy, rust-colored book usually referred to by its author's last name, "Deadman." What does Deadman say about PC6? Oh, nothing too exciting. Just that it treats all diseases of the chest, particularly the heart, but also benefits the lungs, too. It can be used for heart surgery analgesia. What? Yes! No anesthesia necessary...just squeeze PC6 for me while I go under the knife!

In TCM terms, PC6 "unbinds the chest and regulates qi," "regulates the heart and calms the spirit," "harmonizes the stomach to relieve nausea," and "clears heat." It's indicated in conditions such as heart pain, palpitations, cough, asthma, insomnia, anxiety, abdominal masses, fevers, malaria, irregular menstruation, and swellings in the armpits. Nothing important there, right? Not! PC6 does just about everything you could want an acupoint to do.

During a recent advanced seminar class with Dr. Robin Fan, we discussed the benefit of stretching the Kidney meridian in cases of heel pain. Suddenly, all I could picture was the traditional prayer pose--hands out front, pressed gently together, stretching and stimulating the bulk of the Pericardium meridian!

It makes sense. What is the function of prayer if not to calm the mind and spirit? It's not just Catholics and other Christians who have always used this prayer pose, either. As my mind wandered -- sorry, Dr. Fan -- around the globe, I saw the Chinese practicing qi gong poses, the Indians practicing yoga poses, etc. Every tradition I could think of involved some use of this position.

In anthropology, when we see similar customs or values amongst a variety of cultural groups around the world, we call those core elements "cultural universals." In other words, everybody's doing it. Why? The answer is one that, despite my need to create an evidence-based practice, I've always secretly promulgated; sometimes, you don't need to sit around waiting for a formal research study to prove a truth. It's lovely that western medicine has put together some studies that do show the efficacy of PC6 in some conditions, but I'm not waiting for them to prove the rest. I'm going with Deadman and the ancient world traditions on this one.

Pray on, prayers!

My Salt, My Shen (and My SLEEP!)

2014-09-24_popcornI like to eat popcorn before bed at night...every night. I'm defended my position for years, so I'm ready for your attacks. No, I don't think it's bad for me. I air pop organic, non-GMO corn and drizzle on melted grass-fed organic butter. Most deliciously, I sprinkle sea salt all over the top.

Let me stop lying. It's more like I pour on the butter and the salt every one-inch tall increment of popcorn as it falls into the bowl. That's impressive, and it's a skill I've honed over several years. You have to stand at the ready, slowly spinning the bowl under the air popper with your left hand while gently drizzling on the butter from your right hand. Even coverage. Every time.

2014-09-24_butterNow I'll begin to unfold the secrets of my popcorn affair. Is it enough that my bedtime snack is free from pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and genetic modification? We all know I'm not making toxic microwave popcorn. Sure, it clears the "no bad things" screening fairly easily, but, as I always ask when someone proudly shows me a "100 calorie" pack of cookies, "What is actually in there that's good for you?"

Over the past couple of years here at NUHS in the AOM program, I've horrified more than a couple of peers by describing my nighttime ritual. Although we naturally-minded medical people are generally all in agreement that whole-fat butter is better for your body than any margarine-like alternative, I've still heard the "too much fat for your liver to clean" argument against my nightly popcorn.

2014-09-24_bedSeveral months ago, I decided to give it a try. Who wants a Liver or Gall Bladder channel obstructed by phlegm? Not me. So I cut down my popcorn to once every week or two. It was rough. It was sad. I felt incomplete in some way when laying down for bed at night. My kidneys cried me to sleep, begging for the tonification that salt provides my deficient little nephron bodies. They went hungry, as did I.

After a few weeks of my new deprivation lifestyle, I realized something shocking -- I wasn't sleeping well! I've always been a good sleeper, falling right to sleep each night and sleeping straight through until the morning. Nine hours or so was the glorious norm for me. Not anymore. Suddenly it was a struggle to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Transient insomnia? Definitely. Chronic insomnia? I didn't want to head down that road.

Luckily, I happened to be taking Eric Baker's "Nutrition and Food Therapy of Oriental Medicine" course at this very time. I glanced down at my handout during class, and what did I see? Salty (a flavor in TCM, but most specifically manifested in actual SALT) collects the Shen. The Shen in TCM is basically the spirit or mind of the person.

2014-09-24_seasaltI had been neatly collecting my overscheduled, chaotic Shen before bed each night by some sort of inexplicable subconscious desire to put my mental pieces back together in order to sleep well. Now what was I doing? I was trying to fall asleep and stay asleep while my Shen gallivanted around my body and my life, scattered in tiny pieces into all of my hats -- mother, wife, student, professor, friend, sister, etc. No wonder I was failing every night.

Upon making the core connection between my salt, my shen, and my sleep, I promptly began my nightly (or nearly nightly) ritual of devouring a bowl of salty, buttery popcorn. What do you think happened? Let's just say I sleep nicely once again. My body was speaking to me, and I needed to listen. Pop on, popcorn!

I Want It Now

Over the past four weeks in my "Nutrition and Food Therapy of Oriental Medicine" course, I've been frustrated and slightly puzzled over the subject matter. I'm usually more a go-with-the-flow student in class; I'm sure the instructor knows what we need to cover and how to cover it. This time around, I still think he knows what we need to cover and how to lay it out, but I'm not as easy going about the whole thing for some reason.

Maybe it's because it's springtime, so my Liver wind is swirling and I'm irritable. Perhaps I'm overly critical because dietetics is my personal favorite element of oriental medicine. Maybe I'm just a jerk. I don't know. I want to study therapeutic properties of foods, and I want to right now!


Let me start by saying how much I like this professor and every class I've had with him to date. The theory behind where we stick these needles and which herbal formulas we recommend is absolutely mind blowing. He taught me two years ago that winter has a color and a flavor -- black and salty, for the record. Yet each week, we seem to review the basics -- flavors and temperatures of substances. The course title indicates that the focus of the classwork will be nutrition and food therapy within the framework of oriental medicine, so I keep wanting more -- more detail, more examples, more ideas of how to alter a person's diet in order to improve health.

As we approach the famed Week Five Quiz that now makes an appearance in most classes, I'm starting to second-guess myself. Have we been just reviewing the basics of five-phase theory, or did the professor slip pages of new detail into the lectures when I wasn't looking? I'm sure he worked new information into the framework so smoothly that my associate learning didn't even know what was happening.

My frustration with this class is that I love the topic so much that I can't reach a satiation point. I will never have enough detail about food therapy to be content. I want more, I want it now, and I want to share it with everyone I know...and some people I don't even know yet.

2014-06-04_teaOnce again, springtime has duped me. I'm irritable, I'm impatient, and my Liver is out of control. Feel my pulse, second position on the left wrist. Can you say "wiry?"

As I do from time to time, I realize now it's time to reread the Dao de Jing, or the Tao Te Ching. Same book. Oh, pinyin, you are a beast that cannot be pinned down. The point is that this book, this short, easy to read, little book, can save your sanity. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, overstressed, over Livery in any way, I know it's time to pick it up.

Look at this thing. Lao Tzu, you genius!

"Those who know do not speak.
Those who speak do not know."

I, and just about everyone else, could learn a little something from that eloquent one-liner (two-liner?).

"Rushing into action, you fail. Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion, you ruin what was almost ripe."

I don't even like poetry, but this stuff is literally masterful.

2014-06-04_wordsSo, why I am frustrated in Nutrition class? Why do I want to rush it? Why am I desperately grasping at the next piece of information? It's that "forcing a project to completion" part, that part I love for personal reasons. My procrastination has been vindicated!

As a professor, I often wait until the deadline to return students' papers; as a student, I expect my professors to grade my paper today! Actually, I don't think Lao Tzu would like that part.

Jabbing Nerves with Needles

"I hope the points aren't just nerves being shocked by needles," I said to AOM classmate Irene. As one of the few AOM students who originally came into the program to focus on herbal preparations and dietetics, I felt particularly uninformed about this whole acupuncture thing. So, there in one of the first courses on the theory of point energetics -- what the acupoints do and how they do it -- I finally vocalized, albeit in a whisper-like fashion, my growing fear: Maybe there's no meridian or point energetics beyond just sticking a needle into a nerve and hoping it stimulates something productive in the patient's body. Sure, that might still help, but it certainly doesn't have the mystique that interested me in the first place.

2014-03-14_ancient"Moving blood and qi," "balancing energy," and "harmonizing yin and yang"...these concepts are intriguing, promising, and yes, darn near magical in my opinion. If we're just jabbing people with needles and shocking them wildly, then I'm not sure I have the buy-in that a 3-year master of science in oriental medicine degree requires. So there I sat, giving power to my secret fear by speaking it aloud, not knowing what Dr. Yihyun Kwon was going to say to pull me back over to his side of the fence, and hoping that there was something more -- more ancient, more Daoist, more qi-related in any way. (Spoiler Alert. Dr. Kwon wins!) 

Irene surprised me with her response, which I recall as being something along the lines of, "So what if acupuncture is just stimulating nerves with needles?" How could she be so callous to this deep fear that I'd been subconsciously fostering for the first three months of our program? Didn't she understand that I was sitting there, suffering in silence, desperate for some oriental medicine justification?

What Dr. Kwon went on to explain in that first Energetics class, and even more so the following year in Neurophysiology of Acupuncture class, was a concept that bridged the gap between the mysticism and the mundane. He simultaneously satisfied my cravings for evidence-based medicine as well as ancient tradition. Dr. Kwon = 2. Juli's irrational fears = 0.

Photo of Dr. Kwon with studentsYes, he explained, some points are located right beside or above a nerve -- grazing it ever so slightly and eliciting that loved or hated sensation we call "de qi," when energy arrives along that meridian. Further research and dissections have confirmed that many of those points not located at a nerve are actually located exceptionally close to an artery or vein. Here's where he blows my mind in 3...2...1....

Next, he tells us that these vessels and other structures harboring acupoints are essentially wrapped up in nerve fibers themselves. Yes, readers, we've come full circle in Juli's understanding of neurophysiology (which doesn't take long). Many acupoints are on a nerve; those that aren't, still kind of are.

And now to process this information.... Do I hate this answer? Does it ruin the grandeur of ancient energy meridian theory? Nah. I took the news fairly well, all ignorance and expectations considered. In today's health care climate, I like that modern science keeps proving acupuncture theory to be true. Time and time again, I see modern western research pointing to the validity of traditional medicine. At the end of the day, or the century, who doesn't like being told, "You're right"?