Starting an Exercise Program
Exercise is good for you because it lowers blood pressure, increases your “good” cholesterol (HDL) and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. It can prevent stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety and arthritis.
In addition to all these benefits, exercise can also become your friend. Something that you can turn to when you’re upset, uncertain, not sure what to do next.
It’s also one of the most powerful ways of caring for your body, mind and spirit. And the more your body knows that it’s being cared for, the better it performs, the better you feel, the more trust you build with yourself.
For a lot of folks, putting an exercise program in place is a difficult experience. That’s why I’m writing this for YOU.
I'll take you through all the steps before you actually start to go to the gym, work out at home or take a yoga class.
Start by adding to your calendar exercise check in on May 1st. This gives you enough time to get prepared, gear up and begin an exercise program.
Before that date, perhaps even now, I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions.
1)Introvert or Extrovert?
Do you crave quiet time by yourself or do become energized in the presence of others?
Quiet, introverted types like myself benefit from alone time while they hike, swim, walk or find a good online yoga or Pilates class. Extroverts will get added joy from the comradery that exists in yoga classes, water aerobics, or by joining a rowing club, soccer team or playing pickle ball.
Ambiverts may want to go to the gym where there is a certain amount of companionship or find a walking buddy.
2) How much time do you have?
The recommended daily allowance is 150 minutes of moderate exercise a day. That translates to roughly 20 minutes a day, 30 minutes 5x a week, 50 minutes 3x a week. Take a look at your schedule and see if you can fit this in. Remember, something is always better than nothing. Even setting aside 5 minutes a day of movement can be beneficial. When you decide when you’ll be exercising, set aside blocks of time on your calendar.
3) What local resources are available?
We live in an area where the great outdoors is always available. Think about what other resources there are either close to home or work. Ask friends and colleagues what kind of exercise they do and what places they recommend.
Here are some friends who teach movement from a mind/body perspective:
Using somatic movement therapy and yoga therapy I can help you gently and safely circumvent trouble areas in your body and mind restoring your ability to walk briskly, exercise safely and get in control of your body. My clients regularly report long term pain relief and increased mobility with agility. One on One sessions and small group classes are available.
Andrea at Autoimmune Strong
Autoimmune Strong is run by Northampton local Andrea Wool. It's an online fitness resource for people living with autoimmune disease and chronic illness. Check out www.getautoimmunestrong.com for more information.
General email: email@example.com
General phone: 413-271-3842
Owner: Michele Lyman
Learn more about Michele here: www.serenityyogastudio.net/michelelyman.
What we do:
At Serenity Yoga we believe that all beings should have access to the life-changing practice of yoga. We strive to create a peaceful and compassionate environment where you are encouraged to explore and grow your practice. We want you to do what feels good, fully embrace your personal journey and let go of expectations. You will be supported and welcomed for exactly who you are from the moment you walk in the door. We are real people doing real yoga with our real bodies.
Shraddha Yoga is a pay from your heart yoga center that offers weekly drop-in classes, private sessions, workshops, trips to India and teacher trainings in-studio in Hadley and online through zoom. Their offerings include postures & movement, embodiment practices, breathing practices, meditation, philosophical/spiritual teachings, grief support and support for the child-bearing years.
Corinne Andrews, Owner/Director
4) Online or in-person?
Do you prefer the convenience of a class you can do at home, or do you crave being in the same you as other people? We have so many options available on the Internet today, so it’s important to choose what is right for you.
5) What’s your budget?
Many exercises can be done for free. Walking is a great example. Even with that you’ll need to buy comfortable, walking sneakers. Other activities require shelling out some cash – a gym membership, buy skis or a bathing suit. Set aside some funds to use to support your exercise costs.
6) Indoors or outdoors?
This is really important. We live in New England. If being outside in the cold is not your thing, you’ll need to find an indoor class, a gym or an activity you can do at home.
7) What equipment do you need?
Make a list of stuff that you will need to be comfortable exercising. Sneakers, comfortable clothes, weights, skis, kayaks, a bicycle, etc… Give yourself time to get these things.
8) Same or different?
Do you like to do the same exercise routine every day or are you looking to mix things up? This is important so that you either don’t get bored or have too many scattered plans.
8) When will you begin?
Pick a day. The begin. See how it goes. Take a look at my blog Create One New Habit in the New Year for some inspiration.
And remember, you got this!
The Path Forward
As we approach the new year, I’m reminded of something I learned 30 years ago when I was struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I began a lifelong journey towards health. There is always a path forward. It’s not an instant cure or a guarantee of life without pain. Instead, it’s way to find more ease, more joy, less discomfort.
At times, this is hard to believe. Life can throw us curve balls and it may seem difficult to find light in times of darkness.
What’s true is that light is always there.
When I was in acupuncture school, I was taught that, in ancient times, the herbs a person needed would grow just outside their home. I believe that this teaching remains relevant. The things we need to heal are close by – in the food we eat, the exercises we do, in the quieting of the mind, in the restorative power of sleep, and in the arms of the people we love.
Life gets busy, stressful, and often we forget our own miraculous ability to heal. I’m in my 60s now. My body is less forgiving than it once was. Yet when I listen to it, I’m constantly finding ways of renewed health.
You can too!
My work has always focused on small, sustainable changes that lead to improved health and well-being.
Here are my top 8 suggestions for 2022 to live a life filled with health & happiness, all of which are low-cost and readily available.
1) Eat more vegetables.
The easiest way to incorporate this suggestion is to add a serving of vegetables to your diet every day. Choose something that is not part of your current diet. I recommend adding a vegetable to your midday meal. Soup, roasted vegetables, and stir-fries are all good choices.
See my food blog for recipes.
2) Take a walk.
This is one of the easiest forms of exercise. Remember to wear a good pair of sneakers or hiking boots. Walking offers the benefit of movement along with an opportunity to experience the healing powers of the outdoors.
Here are some places in Western Massachusetts.
3) Buy a buckwheat pillow.
I recommend this to my patients who experience neck pain. A buckwheat pillow conforms to the shape of your neck and offers support. No more waking up with a stiff neck!
Here are recommendations for what to buy.
4) Get some extra fiber.
We should be getting a least 30-50 grams of fiber a day. Fiber is found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits & vegetables. Even when we eat these foods, we often don’t get a s much fiber as we need.
Add a tablespoon of this prebiotic fiber to your diet.
5) Relax your muscles more.
I don’t love the term stretch. Stretching is thought of a something that we tack on to our exercise routines. I think of strength training and aerobic exercises as activities that contract and strengthen muscles. Muscles that are constantly in a contracted state end up causing pain and discomfort. Muscles need time to relax. Think of stretching as having a conversation with the tight parts of your body. Breathing in to restricted areas and allowing them to relax creates a life filled with more ease. My personal favorite way to do this is with a Pilates on the Ball workout.
Pilates on the Ball DVD
Pilates on the Ball Book & DVD
6) Cut back or eliminate processed foods, sugar, diary, caffeine and alcohol.
Processed foods are devoid of the nutrients that our body needs to function optimally. Sugar creates inflammation in the body. Diary can cause overproduction of phlegm. Studies show that caffeine offers some health benefits as it is rich in anti-oxidants, but I see many patients who are revved up from coffee and have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Alcohol turns to sugar in the body and heavy drinking is associated with increased risk of death.
While there isn’t a one-sized-fits-all recommendation for intake of these foods, most people are better off either eliminating them or making sure they’re used occasionally and consciously.
I absolutely believe that we should enjoy the food we eat and not feel like we’re depriving ourselves. There are so many healthy, nutritious meals.
Take a look at my Yummy, Healthy Food Blog
7) Start a meditation practice.
This requires no special knowledge or equipment. You just slow down, go inside and sit with what is. Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that each of the 5 main organs has a corresponding positive and negative emotion and when these emotions are in balance this leads to better health.
Listen to my 5 element 5 organ meditation and find this balance.
8) Practice gratitude.
The more you count your blessings, the more blessings you will find to count. Our nervous systems are wired to look for danger, which is a survival mechanism. But trust me, most of the time immediate danger doesn’t exist. When we retrain ourselves to look for beauty, joy and appreciate the good things in our life, we have the ability to experience a paradigm shift. The world can become a safe and forgiving place.
Here’s one way to begin a gratitude practice.
One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that the path forward is not a solitary one. We humans are wired to need connection with each other. None of us live in isolation.
If you find yourself struggling, reach out to a trusted friend or family member. You might be surprised to learn that they are going through something similar to you. Shared pain is pain halved.
If you’re looking for additional support, I offer free ½ hour consultations to new patients or those who haven’t seen me in a while.
Simply, schedule one here: https://www.bonniediamond.com/free-consultation.html
Remember, we’re all in this grand experiment we call life together.
Sending blessings for the holiday season and the new year!
Simple Path to Health & Wellness
As an acupuncturist working with patients, I find that as much as I would like everyone to eat lots of veggies, exercise & think loving and compassionate thoughts, life often gets in the way.
Healthy eating gives way to favorite (not so healthy) comfort foods. Exercise routines get thrown out the window. Struggles we think we have gotten over reappear.
I know this from a personal perspective as well. Since Covid began, I have taken most changes in stride. I adapted to wearing a mask, going out less often, spending time on Zoom. It seemed ok. Then, without much warning, I began to feel overwhelmed. I reached a point where it all just got to me.
Maybe you have felt this way too!
Not quite knowing exactly what to do with feelings of uncertainty, doubt & confusion, I came up with my latest wellness plan.
No time to go to the gym, take a walk around the neighborhood. If walking causes pain or discomfort, do some gentle stretches. If stretching isn’t possible, take a few deep breaths.
Give yourself the time and space to be less than perfect. And in this place of imperfection, do what you can.
The "do what you can" philosophy brought me so much relief. I realized that even when I couldn’t check everything off my to-do list, eat as well as I would like, feel calm and composed, I was still able to do something healing, life affirming, stress reducing.
It didn’t have to be perfect or ideal or a version of some fantasy life I created. It just had to be some small thing presently in reach.
This idea is shaping how I think about the healing path. 'Do what you can" involves feeling compassionate and being present. It’s helping me see how brave we all are just by showing up each day and doing the best that we can.
Take a moment right now, to think of all the “do what you can moments” of the past week. Write them down even if they seem inconsequential. This is an important part of the process. You may be surprised at how well you take care of yourself.
If you need inspiration, take a look at some of these blogs:
And, as always, feel free to reach out to me.
With you in spirit,
How does acupuncture work?
Last week when I was treating a patient, she asked this question, “So how does acupuncture work?” It’s a question that I had asked as a student at the New England School of Acupuncture.
The truth is that we don’t actually know how acupuncture works from a Western medical perspective. East Asian medicine has a model that is vastly different from science, which focuses on separating the different parts of the body and has an emphasis on cause and effect.
Acupuncture looks at the body as a whole and focuses more on the relationship of a part to it’s whole.
Western Medicine is more absolute, Eastern Asian medicine more relative. Because these models are so different, it’s difficult to explain one in terms of the other.
That said, we do have some clues about how acupuncture works from a Western medical perspective.
All of this is exciting news because it offers confirmation of what I find when treating patients. Pain decreases, the body goes into relaxed states, colds & flus last for shorter amounts of time.
Interested, intrigued by how this works and how it might help you?
I’m offering free 30 minute consultations. Sign-up here.
With you in health,
What is Qi?
Acupuncture works by moving qi in the body. But what is qi and why is it important?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we learn that qi is energy. In its most basic form, it contains yin and yang – two ends of a spectrum. Yin corresponds to darkness, cold, winter, female, stillness. Yang corresponds to light, heat, summer, male. This energy further separates into the five elements – water, wood, fire, earth and metal.
In the body, yin refers to the front and yang to the back. The five elements are reflected in the five major organs – the kidneys, liver, heart, spleen/pancreas, and lungs. When we refer to these organs, we’re not talking about the actual physical organ, rather organ functionality. There’s something that is not actual living tissue, rather the instructions for how the cells and organs should behave.
I think of qi as the body’s intelligent energy. It’s what makes lung cells know how to breathe, stomach cells know how to digest food, liver cells know how to detoxify, kidney cells know how to filter waste and heart cells know how to pump blood.
We come into the world with only these basic instructions to keep us alive. Breathe and eat to supply the body with energy. Get rid of the waste productions that result from this process. And then, of course, take a nap.
Remarkably, without any training, our bodies are pretty good at this.
Then life happens. There’s all this other stuff we need to do. We learn to speak and read and accumulate knowledge. We have to go out into the world of work. Our bodies develop the capacity to reproduce. We form connections with other people.
The world gets much more complex. In the midst of the complexities, we can forget the basics – breathe, eat, move and rest.
What used to be so simple may know seem out of reach.
Here’s the thing. Getting these basics back is not out of reach. Acupuncture and East Asian medicine are truly designed for this.
When I’m working with people, I’m reminding them of the things that their body already knows.
The beauty of the work is in helping people reclaim the power that lives within them.
Need encouragement, advice on how to do this?
There’s an easy way to get in touch with me. Sign up for a free, 30 minute consultation.
If you’re new to acupuncture, have seen me before or are a current patient, I’m happy to spend a little time helping you live with more health, greater ease and increased well-being.
Take Stock: A New Year's Message
Every year I think about what advice to share as we complete another turn around the sun. What can I write that will bring you more health, more joy and more ease?
There are so many possibilities – eat better, sleep more, find quiet time for meditation. These are all good things, but I realized the magic missing ingredient in so many wellness and self-care programs is found in the act of taking stock.
It’s not enough to set goals. We need to watch what happens when we put an idea out into the world. We need to track our progress and record our thoughts and feelings each day.
I got this inspiration sitting at my desk, looking at my 2020 yearly planner. It’s the place where I keep track of things. Not my daily schedule filled with patient appointments, places to go and commitments to keep. These are stored electronically with a kind of efficiency only the digital world can provide.
In my paper planner, I write down goals and dreams, along with notes marking unexpected pleasures and themes for the month. I use the planner as a journal of sorts, briefly recording my thoughts and feelings on a somewhat regular basis.
As I turn the pages, I’m able to look back and reflect.
I might not have remembered any of this if I hadn’t jotted down notes as the year went by. I barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday :). So now I have this incredible gift – pages filled with remembrances, a record of days gone by.
As the new year begins, I recommend that you begin (or continue) to take stock. Here’s how:
At this moment, there is the initial pleasure found in the blank pages of the yearly planner that have not yet been filled. It’s still an empty slate awaiting possibility. You don’t yet know what the year will bring. (2020 taught us the role of the unexpected.)
You stand at this moment, closing one door and about to open another. This is the time to dream, to imagine, to ask for the wishes that live deep in your heart.
Your yearly planner allows for this. The empty pages are waiting to be filled with the moments & reflections that make up your life. Write these down. Take stock. Be the creator of your life’s journey.
As we enter 2021, I send you blessings to guide you along the way.
Ps. If this process sounds appealing, but you don’t have time to get a planner of your own, here's my Roadmap to Health Booklet/Calendar/Journal for you to print out.
And if you feel like you need help in the process of creating healthy habits for a healthy year, do get in touch to find out about my Roadmap to Health Wellness Counseling program.
Savings on Wellness Packages
I love the holidays and this time of year. In the 5 element, 5 organ system of Chinese Medicine, we are entering the time of the kidneys and water. It is a time that connects us to our deepest energy. Think of the image of a well that brings up water from deep in the ground, to sustain and support us.
It’s so interesting that the new year starts here because energetically it is a time of beginnings. A time to plant the seeds that will grow into life events and experiences – things that we will harvest in 2021.
I’m not a big fan of new year’s resolutions, as most of these get broken, leaving us feeling discouraged.
But I am a fan of imagining, asking for what we want, digging deep into our souls for guidance and seeing what we find.
I encourage you to take time to reflect on the things that are most important to you.
My part in this process is to help you achieve your health goals.
In the spirit of thanks and generosity, I’m offering discounted packages that you can purchase for yourself or as a gift to a family ember. These will be available through this link until the end of December.
May this season be filled with wonder and connection even as we wear masks and socially distance.
Life continues to move forward. Let’s make the best of it.
With you in spirit,
ps. If you’re looking for a Thanksgiving recipe instead of or in addition to the traditional turkey, here’s a yummy stuffed squash dish.
I look at my calendar and realize that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. How is this possible?
I see that I've added the word Cleveland from Tuesday, November 24th to Saturday, November 28th on my calendar. In a moment of optimism, my husband and I thought that we would be able to drive to visit his family in Ohio. We would all get tested, wear masks and social distance.
But a few weeks ago, we realized that keeping everyone safe from the spread of Covid was more important than gathering together.
I feel a little unanchored. Thanksgiving for Dan and I has always been a time to travel. We either visit out-of-town relatives or indulge in one of our favorite things, a long weekend away from it all. Some years it has been on the quiet beaches of the Cape. Other times we've explored the back roads of Vermont. In the 16 years that we've been together, we have never spent Thanksgiving at home.
This year we will.
Are you starting to think about how to celebrate the holiday? Have you canceled your usual plans, or will you take precautions and gather together?
Either way the holiday will be different.
In 2020, our lives have been upended. It will take our creative spirits to make this year's Thanksgiving a meaningful one.
Here are my suggestions:
1) Start to plan.
3) Remember that we're starting the holiday season. That gives us the opportunity to have small celebrations, small joys through New Years.
4) Take a look at the blog, A Holistic Approach to the Holidays, that I send out each year.
5) It is a season of gift giving. I'm offering these holiday packages so that you can give the gift of health to someone you love.
Most of all, remember that you're going to get through this. Be a little kinder to yourself and those around you. We're all feeling the specific challenge of a very unusual time. My holiday blog talks about the gift of imperfection. This is an imperfect year.
Strive on. Find joy. Be well.
Pain Relief for Sciatica
Pain is one of those pesky things we think we have to live with. You, like many of my patients, may have experienced sciatica. It’s something that generally isn’t serious in a life-threatening way, but creates so much distress and discomfort. If you have sciatica, you probably will be in pain doing your normal daily activities, like walking, sitting or sleeping.
Your doctor may want to help you, but has minimal tools – anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone shots – both of which come with side effects. Also, they don’t fix the problem.
Here’s where being open to trying a new modality like acupuncture can be helpful. Treatments reduce inflammation, relax muscles and treat areas of the spine that may be pressing on the sciatic nerve.
That’s what Phil Chmura found out when he came to see me. Phil suffered from severe sciatica. The pain interfered with his daily life to the extent that he couldn't stand for more than 3 minutes before the pain started and continued to increase. He had already tried treatments like chiropractic and anti-inflammatory drugs to no avail and he wanted to avoid cortisone shots.
He finally decided it was time to turn his life around and came to see me after getting encouragement from his daughter and friend of mine, Amber Ladley.
After just nine weekly treatments, we were able to virtually eliminate his pain!
Phil was able to get back to biking – one of his favorite activities. When I reached out to him, about a year and a half after treatment, he responded with these words:
"I have fortunately been relatively pain free since the completion and have just recently signed up for my second bike trip across the USA. I cannot thank Bonnie enough for getting my life back to normal and would highly recommend her services."
I thank Phil for sharing his story. With pain, you have options. By being open to complementary forms of treatment, like acupuncture, you can find ways of reducing and eliminating pain.
You might be a little nervous to try something new. I understand that. People have concerns about the needles, the safety of treatment, trying something outside of Western Medicine.
That’s why I offer free ½ hour, online consultations. I’ll listen to what is causing you pain and discomfort, review your health history and honestly let you know how I can be helpful.
Please know that you don't have to suffer in silence if you're in pain.
Relief from Sciatica
Sciatica is caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerve – the longest and widest nerve in the body. It’s about the thickness of your little finger.
While sciatica often isn’t serious, it can create a lot of discomfort.
From an acupuncture perspective, there are two meridians (energetic pathways) that are involved, the bladder and gall bladder meridians. Note: Inflammation in these meridians does not mean that you have bladder or gall bladder problems.
When there is the smooth flow of energy through the meridians, there’s health in the body. Notice how the meridians run along the same area of the sciatic nerve.
Treatments can help:
-open up restrictions in the meridians
-reduce inflammation along the spine in areas that are pressing on the sciatic nerve
-relax muscles that are contracting and causing pain
-teach you to eat in a way that reduces inflammation in the body
In practice for over 20 years, Bonnie Diamond offers individualized, heart-centered care using a pain-free, Japanese style of acupuncture. Her work is influenced by her nine year struggle with and complete recovery from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Hours are Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-8pm
247 Northampton Street, #27
Easthampton, MA 01027
Get information on other complementary health resources recommended by Staying in Balance.
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