Sun Soo Geungang (Health) #6 – Nature

Dear All,

Sometimes words just aren’t enough to express the soul-deep multitude of feelings that have engulfed us as a community and a nation recently. My wish for humanity? May every person be seen, heard, valued, cared for, fulfilled, well-nourished, loved in safe and secure relationships, in a circle of community, family, and friends, so they can thrive and be safe and healthy.

Big feelings need big spaces. I took all the sadness, overwhelm, pain, despair, fear, anger, care, and hope into the woods for days, getting up early to start the day with a 45 minute walk. Some days there was rain, fog or sun (or all three at the same time!). It was an immersion of the senses when I paid attention. I learned the “chirp” sound of cardinals calling to each other, saw families of rabbits eating clover for breakfast, and met the award- winner for loudest birdsong coming from a tiny Carolina wren. The wisdom of the trees was all around…grandfather and grandmother trees, branches rising into the multicolored morning sky. One day in DuPont State Forest, I sat in front of High Falls and imagined all my turbulent feelings being poured inside the pounding water, and watched as that beautiful cascade pounded and resolved into eddies of smooth water downstream. And I felt better. We’re in a huge time of transition, of hopefully, finally transforming longtime injustices and hurts, during a time of ongoing pandemic and economic uncertainty. Maybe being in Nature reminds us about something deep in ourselves…that healing is possible, that growth is possible, that things grow, fall down, cascade, change, move…and transform into something else. We’re in widespread “dis-ease” right now… literally not being at ease…but isn’t lack of ease an important part of big transformations?

In Japan, there is a practice called “shinrin-yoku” or “forest bathing”. It is not considered exercise or hiking…it is simply being in nature and paying attention to all your senses- the sights, smells, sounds of being outside. The health benefits of this are surprising. Natural killer cell activity, our immune system defense cells against bacteria and viruses, goes up. Anti-cancer proteins get activated. Blood pressure goes down, as do scores for depression, fatigue, anxiety and confusion. Stress related hormones like adrenalin and dopamine decrease. In one study, some of the cellular effects lasted up to seven days after being outside! Some benefits have been attributed to breathing in the smells of the forest, plants and trees, which come from phytoncides- antimicrobial organic compounds from plants. No matter where you live, see if you can find a bit of the outdoors to experience your own “shinrin-yoku” this week- perhaps while doing your tae kwon do practice, taking a bike ride, walking around the block, enjoying a park, or just resting in the shade of a tree.

Best,
Danna

About Danna:

Dr. Danna Park specializes in Integrative Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She received her M.D. degree from Tufts University, completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and is a graduate of the Residential Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. She is Board-certified in all three specialties. Dr. Park provides integrative consultations for adults and children with a variety of medical conditions and also works with people who want to take an active approach in maintaining their wellness. Dr. Park has specialized training in mind-body medicine, vitamins and supplements, nutritional approaches for brain-based disorders and integrative cancer care. For more information, call 828-333-3339 or go to www.mountainintegrative.com .

Sun Soo Geungang (Health) #4 – Breathe

Dear all,

Ever experience a sudden adverse unwanted situation? You may have found yourself holding your breath!  This common automatic reaction actually heightens the sympathetic nervous system’s “fight/ flight/freeze” reaction, stimulates our limbic or “primitive brain”, and decreases our ability to think clearly and effectively.  This is the reason why we focus so much on breathing in and out while doing basics or practicing our forms in tae kwon do.

When we train our breathing at the same time we are physically practicing tae kwon do, we increase the likelihood that we will be able to respond effectively using our whole brain and body if suddenly confronted with an unwanted situation.

One of the quickest ways to affect our nervous system and decrease stress and anxiety is to use something we have vitally available to us all the time: our breath.

Breathing techniques have been around for thousands of years as part of physical, spiritual and mental practices such as yoga.  Even though breathwork seems like a simple tool, it is one of the most effective ways to create a calming, focused and energy conserving state in our brain and body.

Breathing techniques affect multiple systems in the body in a synchronized way.  Breathwork shifts our brainwaves and heartbeat patterns, activating our internal “relaxation response”, resulting in decreased anxiety and feelings of improved ease, comfort and emotional control. Other benefits include increased oxygenation and activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the  executive function part of our brain responsible for self-regulation, problem solving, self-control and creativity.  Other brain benefits include improved hypothalamus and pons function, which regulate several hormones and a number of automatic body functions.  Even our brainwaves are positively affected- EEG studies demonstrate more alpha waves, which are predominant when humans are in a focused meditative state.  Because breathing practices affect the calming parasympathetic part of our autonomic nervous system, lower heart rate and blood pressure also occur.

The powerful combination of heart, brain and hormonal effects contribute to indirectly decreasing inflammation in the body and improving immune system function.  That’s good news during this time of COVID-19!  One person who recovered from COVID-19 remarked on the power of breathwork and movement as a meditative approach and as ways to exercise and expand their lungs during the illness:

“Focused breathing is something I really feel helped me a lot. Taking deep breaths and holding it. Long meditations helped. For this, I kept a yoga mat open beside my bed so I could lie completely flat and my chest wasn’t compressed in any way.

Sitting up. I made myself sit upright in a chair for most of the day. The more time I spent in bed, the worse my chest felt and I had to cough much harder to expel what was trying to settle.

Movement. If I had the energy, I walked around the property with a mask on and talked to my spouse, the dog, or myself, to make my lungs work a little more.

Healthcare providers have also noted benefits with  periodic “prone” positioning (laying on your stomach) as a way to increase oxygen and to expand more areas of the lungs.

 

Here are two of my favorite breathing techniques:

The 4-7-8 Breath

Sitting in a comfortable position with your back straight, place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth.

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.

Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.

Hold your breath for a count of seven.

Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.  This is one cycle.

For a beginning practice, repeat the cycle for 3-4 times.  Keep the time spent at each count comfortable for your own individual needs by adjusting the total speed of your breathing as needed, keeping exhalation time twice as long as your inhalation time.

If any dizziness or lightheadedness, decrease the amount of time spent at each count, but maintain the ratio of 4:7:8.

 

Straw Breath (or Beak Breath)

Bring your lips together to form an “O” as if sipping through a straw.  Allow your tongue and jaw to be relaxed and your lips soft.

Slowly inhale through your nose and pause holding your breath for a second or two if comfortable.

Exhale slowly through your pursed lips, as if you were gently blowing on a candle, keeping the flame flickering but not going out,  until all the air is expelled.

If it is comfortable for you, you can take a natural slight pause here until you are ready for your in-breath.

Gently allow the in-breath to fill your lungs as comfortably as possible, breathing in through your nose.

Repeat the cycle of exhaling slowly through your pursed lips, as if you were blowing slowly out through a straw, keeping the stream of out-going air calm and smooth.

It is important to follow your body and not create strain, so adjust the speed of your in-breath and out-breath for what feels right to you.  Follow your body and only hold your breath for as long as it is comfortable for you.  If any strain, dizziness or lightheadedness, stop.

A good starting point is to do 4 to 5 cycles of this.  At the end, take a moment to return to your natural regular breathing pattern and notice how you feel.

Breathing practices can be used anytime, anywhere when more calm, focus and inner attention is desired.  Adding your own personalized quiet or silent positive statement to each in-breath is another option to use the power of the mind-body connection, such as: “I am well” or “I am calm in my body and my mind.”  See what you think!

 

Best,

Danna


About Danna:

Dr. Danna Park specializes in Integrative Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.  She received her M.D. degree from Tufts University, completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and is a graduate of the Residential Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.  She is Board-certified in all three specialties.  Dr. Park provides integrative consultations for adults and children with a variety of medical conditions and also works with people who want to take an active approach in maintaining their wellness.  Dr. Park has specialized training in mind-body medicine, vitamins and supplements, nutritional approaches for brain-based disorders and integrative cancer care.  For more information, call 828-333-3339 or go to  www.mountainintegrative.com .

Zaccaro A, Piarulli A, Laurino M, et al. How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018;12:353.

 

Sun Soo Geungang (Health) #3 – Recharge

Dear all,

Our tae kwon do practice provides us with a lot of things that are good for our bodies.  Strength.  Flexibility. Endurance.  Although we may not be thinking about it during a physically challenging class, these are exactly the kinds of qualities that we are internally cultivating as well.  And thank goodness for that!

Strength, flexibility and endurance are key pieces for our physical, mental, spiritual and emotional resilience during this time.  One common definition of resilience is the ability to “bounce back” after a stressful event or challenge has happened.  But a newer definition takes resilience to a higher level.  Resilience can be thought of as the capacity to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, challenge or adversity.  I like the word “capacity” in that definition, because it means that resilience is not an “all or none” thing- it fluctuates like energy in a battery.  In these times of challenges, we build our mental and emotional resilience capacity and have more to draw on when we need it, just like we exercise our bodies in class and become stronger physically.

Creating simple daily ways to recharge mentally and emotionally can be extremely helpful, and they have the extra benefit of improving our immune system function and quieting our body’s stress response.  If you can, go outside or open a window.  Spend 5-10 minutes or more focusing on the sound of the birds, or the feel of the sun on your face.  Or focus your attention on your heart, and imagine that your breath is moving in and out of your heart or chest area.  These types of meditative, centering exercises help calm and rebalance our nervous system.

 

Other free options include:

Kaiser Permanente free meditation audioguides

https://m.kp.org/health-wellness/podcasts/emotional-wellness

HeartMath Global Coherence app and Inner Balance appwww.heartmath.org-– can download these from the app store for free.  Both have audioguides, and the Global Coherence App has two audio guides specific for coronavirus.

Other smart phone apps: Breathing Zone- Mindful Breathing, Breathe2Relax, Insight Timer-Guided Meditations app, Calm app

Strength, flexibility, endurance, resilience: even just a few minutes taken to support ourselves mentally and emotionally can make a big difference.  See what you think!

 

With care,

Danna


About Danna:

Dr. Danna Park specializes in Integrative Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.  She received her M.D. degree from Tufts University, completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and is a graduate of the Residential Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.  She is Board-certified in all three specialties.  Dr. Park provides integrative consultations for adults and children with a variety of medical conditions and also works with people who want to take an active approach in maintaining their wellness.  Dr. Park has specialized training in mind-body medicine, vitamins and supplements, nutritional approaches for brain-based disorders and integrative cancer care.  For more information, call 828-333-3339 or go to  www.mountainintegrative.com .

Sun Soo Geungang (Health) #2 – Nutrition

Dear all,

Do you have a computer or any technological gadget that starts with the letter i?  Could you ever visualize treating that expensive piece of equipment less than gently?  Imagine what would happen if you smacked your computer lid closed every time you used it, or dropped your iPad or smartphone from 4 feet in the air onto the kitchen counter multiple times a day.  How effective would your technology be if you forgot to plug it in at night?  One instructor I had in school called an iPad “a very expensive holder for dead batteries” when I showed up to class one day with a nonfunctioning gizmo.

Our bodies are incredibly complex, beautiful technological wonders.  How we “fuel” our bodies makes a huge difference in performance.   Ever show up to tae kwan do class without having eaten anything?  I have…and I was fuzzy-headed, couldn’t remember forms very well and couldn’t push my body or brain to get the maximum benefit from class.

Thinking about “food as medicine” is a great idea right now.  Studies are showing immune system support and antiviral benefits of a variety of nutrients, which we can get from what we eat. Three of these nutrients, vitamin C, quercetin and zinc, are particularly beneficial right now.

I recommend incorporating a variety of vegetables/ fruits in your diet daily- 5-7 servings/day is optimal.  Although that sounds like a lot, remember that a serving size is ½ cup.  It is also important to get a variety of colors of vegetables in your meals- these contain compounds, like quercetin,  that decrease inflammation in the body and improve immune system balance and function.

Quercetin is high in onions, apples, tomatoes, berries, parsley, and celery and may prevent COVID-19 virus from binding to human respiratory cells.  The vitamin C in fruits and veggies improves immune system function and even lowers the ability of the COVID-19 virus to create inflammation in the body.

Zinc is an important trace mineral for our bodies and also has antiviral properties.  Good food sources of zinc include beans, nuts, whole grains, red meat and poultry.  Past studies on zinc’s effects on SARS-CoV, a “cousin” to COVID-19 showed interesting viral blocking effects.  Based on that research, it has been suggested that zinc may inhibit COVID-19 virus’ ability to enter into human cells and replicate itself.

Here’s a delicious ratatouille recipe that uses a variety of vegetables to make a delicious and flavorful stew- https://healthiersteps.com/recipe/easy-ratatouille-recipe/

Adding beans to this recipe is an easy way to add protein and zinc for even more health benefits!

Well-wishes,

Danna


About Danna:

Dr. Danna Park specializes in Integrative Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.  She received her M.D. degree from Tufts University, completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and is a graduate of the Residential Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.  She is Board-certified in all three specialties.  Dr. Park provides integrative consultations for adults and children with a variety of medical conditions and also works with people who want to take an active approach in maintaining their wellness.  Dr. Park has specialized training in mind-body medicine, vitamins and supplements, nutritional approaches for brain-based disorders and integrative cancer care.  For more information, call 828-333-3339 or go to  www.mountainintegrative.com.

 

Sun Soo Geungang (Health) #1 – Exercise

Dear all,

In the Korean language, it turns out there are numerous ways to say “crisis”, and one of the “crisis” words means “bifurcation or diverging point.”…one path that splits into two. Any time there are two ways to possibly go, there is the power of choice. Even though a lot of things are out of our control, it is important to pay attention to the things we can control and the choices we can make, as a way to maintain our personal resilience.

Since our “homestay” began, I’ve been out walking daily, usually with my husband, and always paying close attention to the “6-foot away rule” if we pass anyone on our path in the woods. We’ve done these walks B.C. (before COVID), without much other “foot traffic”; in fact, it was rare to see another person. But now? Lots of people are getting out in the fresh air and choosing to make this time a healthier time by walking.

At Sun Soo now, thanks to our “Internet-savvy” instructors, we have a choice every day about how we want to continue our practice and incorporate daily exercise in our lives. Our martial arts practice has a number of health benefits that are especially important now. Exercise helps us to “stay in the moment” and to decrease anxiety.  It supports proper immune system function by enhancing immune system competency and regulation.  Studies continue to show that regular physical activity and frequent structured exercise reduces incidence of viral and bacterial infections in addition to decreasing other chronic diseases such as cancer, inflammatory disorders, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Regular
exercise for all ages, but especially in older adults, increases both numbers and effectiveness of a variety of immune cells in our bodies: T cells, natural killer cells and neutrophils.

Currently the WNC data shows that all the work each of us are doing to stay home is working! Don’t stop- we still have a ways to go! As we continue to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus, take heart and know that by choosing to do your martial arts practice, you are choosing to support your health in a variety of ways.

Well-wishes,
Danna

About Danna:

Dr. Danna Park specializes in Integrative Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She received her M.D. degree from Tufts University, completed a combined residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and is a graduate of the Residential Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. She is Board-certified in all three specialties. Dr. Park provides integrative consultations for adults and children with a variety of medical conditions and also works with people who want to take an active approach in maintaining their wellness. Dr. Park has specialized training in mind-body medicine, vitamins and supplements, nutritional approaches for brain-based disorders and integrative cancer care.

For more information, call 828-333-3339 or go to www.mountainintegrative.com

What Shape is Your Vessel…this Moment?

Several years ago, while attending a training in leadership, I saw a most remarkable demonstration.   The primary point was profound.  The materials used were familiar.  And the contrast between the profundity of the point and the commonness of the props gave great amplification to the impact of the demonstration.  It was incredibly simple — with straight forward results.  And yet I knew, in a very specific and memorable moment, that I would forever see and experience life differently — from that reference mark forward!

The materials used included two individual, uniquely and specifically shaped clear glass vessels, as well as one large pitcher of water.  The first vessel was about a foot tall and narrow, about two inches wide and square in its cross-section.  The second vessel was short – about six inches tall, pear-shaped and approximately six inches in diameter at its widest point.

Without saying a word, the demonstrator lifted the pitcher of water and proceeded to carefully and slowly pour the water into the first glass vessel.  Read more

A Martial Arts Lesson in Compassion

Compassion…the Magical Key to ONE

Contrary to some popular belief, the ultimate aim of an authentic martial arts practice is to become “one-with” “another” and in so doing there is no basis for conflict, for there is no basis for “separateness”.  The key resource for this expression is “compassion”. Read more

All About Energy

Energy is fascinating!  We have it, need it,  want it, spend it, trap it, hoard it, share it, enjoy it, replenish it, transform it, benefit from it, create with it, destroy with it, love with it, understand through it, expand and contract with it… and through it all exist AS it – Energy…!

The more we understand and experience energy and ourselves and everything else as energy, the better able we are to fully and consciously engage in life.  An authentic martial arts practice provides an excellent opportunity for self-development through exploring and experiencing fundamental principles of energy… Read more

Consequential Sequence: Capability, Humility and Respect

Life is rich with relationships. Give and take, cause and effect and consequential sequencing are among the most prominent relationship models between things, people, factors and entities. Consequential sequencing—the effect or consequence one thing has on another, and the resulting sequence—is the most fascinating.

One of life’s more powerful consequential sequences is the relationship between the qualities of capability, humility and respect. These states of being are often misunderstood individually, collectively, and in their respective relationship to each other. An authentic martial arts practice provides a rich opportunity for them to be experienced, explored, understood and, ultimately, powerfully employed.

The Sequence of Capability, Humility and Respect

Capability relates to developing and then possessing an ability for particular skills or knowledge. As we develop an ability, we begin appreciating our capability and feel compelled to explore ourselves, and life, more deeply. This exploration leads us to realize how vast the universe is, how relatively small as individual entities we are in comparison, and how much more there is to learn and to live—a humbling process. The resulting humility allows us to share our capabilities and benefit others, ultimately earning their appreciative esteem and respect. Capability invites humility, which in turn creates respect.

This sequence can work in reverse, as well. When we are respected by others without using force, our resulting appreciation for that respect creates humility. The sharing and accessible state of humility keeps us engaged in our area of accomplishment/knowledge, thereby sustaining capability. The flow of this sequence, in one direction and then the other, is one of the more powerful and pleasurable oscillations of life.

Although an authentic martial arts practice can provide a rich environment in which to experience and develop and accelerate this consequential sequence, we can start right now with where we are in this moment. . So start today, by practicing and experiencing capability, humility and respect… and discover the martial artist in you!

Q: How should I practice tae kwon do at home?

A: There are many, many ways that one can practice at home.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Work on specific techniques in front of a mirror (if room doesn’t permit stepping, then if it is a hand technique get into the proper stance and employing pivoting – chamber then execute and repeat — being sure to twist and snap everything into place simultaneously.  if it is a foot technique, then step into fighting stance and repeatly kick with the same leg, stepping back into the original stance each time)
  • Practice technique and accuracy by hanging a small target from a string (like a small ball of aluminum foil) suspended (by tape) from the ceiling.  This is useful for both hand and foot techniques.
  • Work on proper kick tracking with props.  example 1:  practice side kick by standing next to a dining table lift kicking leg up with knee high and supporting heel pivoted toward the table and slowly and with smooth control track the kick out above and across the table top and then back slowly and smoothly to re-chamber position.  example 2:  practice round house kick by getting into fighting stance and placing an object like a tall kitchen trash can just in front of the front leg — practice kicking with the rear leg lifting the knee high enough to safely track above the object, stopping at the kicking plane and then finishing the kick with the foot continuing path of travel out in the same line as the shoulder, hip and knee — and then re-chambering and pivoting back into the original stance.
  • Practice your forms and 1-steps in a room with the furniture moved to the edges or outside in the yard.  note: practice ALL of your forms and1-steps!
  • Practice noticing! — at everything!  the more observant you become the better martial artist you will be.
  • Practice stretching, especially parts of your body that are particularly sore or that do not have the range of motion that you would like
  • Increase your strength in your core muscles especially — twisting sit-ups, pilates exercises, leg-lifts, crunches, ect.,…
  • Visualize yourself executing your tae kwon do, whether you do this in the form of forms, 1-steps, sparring, or individual techniques — see yourself the way you would like to be.  The more clearly you can visualize the more you will improve (the brain does not know the difference between clear, vivid visualization and actual physical experience).  This means those few minutes as you fall asleep or come into consciousness in the morning can become your movie theater to the new martial artist you.
  • Teach a family member — as you begin to teach you begin to really learn.  If you are enthusiastic and effective, your family member may eventually join you in class!

There are many other ideas that come to mind.  These are just a few that come to my mind.  There is great value in you creating your own as well…