Fight or flight? Survive, thrive and procreate, these are the two basic instincts of human behavior controlled by the Nervous system. The first stimulates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which controls the body’s responses to a perceived threat by stopping digestion, triggering stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol plus prolactin, the celibacy hormone. It shuts down the lateral thinking parts of the brain, it contracts the vagina and releases the bladder. However, the second, parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the opposite. It controls natural balance in the body so it can relax, rest, digest, thrive and procreate.
At this time of COVID-19, most people seem to be falling into the first response section and procreating is the furthest from their mind. This flight or fight response is ok if you are under immediate threat but on a long-term basis, the body and mind will become unwell, causing the very situation that you were trying to avoid. So how can we calm down and replenish joyful love into everyday living? In my last blog, I described how to bring romance back to life with spontaneity and trying new things. But maybe you aren’t there, perhaps there has been too much change and you are feeling terrified in a world that doesn’t seem so certain anymore. Attending to your libido seems the furthest from your mind and that’s ok right now. You have to dig where you stand and take action in a way that suits you. So rather than forcing your sex drive to kick start, begin by simply increasing calm and focusing on relaxation, good health will follow.
Infographic from Good Food: Better Sex
The Kidney and Bladder are the organs in the 5element system of Traditional Chinese Medicine that govern the nervous system. Working on these meridians can release tension from the muscles, relax the organs and improve the breathing so that oxygen can feed the body and the mind. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we use food, acupuncture points and Chi Gong exercise to balance and relax the body. The good news is that it is relatively easy to help the body switch to the parasympathetic nervous system where all parts of the brain are in use, heart rate slows, digestion, absorption and elimination of food happens. It also allows the erection of the penis plus lubrication and opening of the vagina to take place, all you need to do is breathe.
Many practices blend body and breath such as Chi Gong, Ujjayi breathing, Yoga and Tai Chi. Here I share a couple of simple breathing exercises from Good Food: Better Sex.
The first exercise – place your hands on your belly, just below the navel. Take some large breaths. As you breathe in feel your hands rise and as you breathe out feel your hands fall. The belly will decrease as the diaphragm pushes the air out. Focus especially on the out-breath. Breath out as long as possible, right to the end of the breath and hold it for three seconds, let the in-breath take care of itself. Do this at least ten times. Taking your attention along with your palms to the area just below the belly button.
The second exercise – sweep your arms up overhead to gather the energy all around you as you breathe in. As you breathe out, bring down your palms over the front of your face and body, as they come to your belly take them to the back, over the kidneys, sweeping them down the backs of the legs and up the inner legs. Come to rest with your palms holding just below your belly button. Do this ten times and feel your body relaxed, kidney’s restored and nervous system reset.
You don’t need a partner to have Good Food: Better Sex you simply have to be your own best lover. Put your health and wellness first and good things will follow. It is perfectly normal that libido changes especially during times of an unforeseen pandemic and hormonal shifts. Don’t begin to think there is something wrong with you or your relationship. Just breathe, and know that all this will pass.
If you would like to work with me to increase your vitality and energy, to connect with your body, balancing hormones and jump starting your libido – why not book a 1-1 session with me and I can help you access the innate health of your body, to tune-in with your sexual energy which in Chinese Medicine is at the core of feeling well and ageing slowly.
Usually, I live with my partner one week on one week off. He looks after his kids down in West Cork, then comes to Dublin and lives with me for a week. It’s been like that for three years. But just before lockdown began, I traveled to Eyeries on the Beara peninsula. Since then we have been together 24/7. Gone are the evening phone calls where we talked about the day, the weekend strolls when we missed each other’s company and the heightened desire as our bodies longed for each other in the missing week. Now we have it, we have all of it, there’s no escape and I have fallen in love.
I love the peace, I love the view, I love the rhythm to the day. I love waking up without my first thoughts being “what do I have to do today?” I have fallen into a comfortable rhythm of the day. I don’t feel panic, overwhelm or fear during lockdown. I feel good. One unexpected result though is that my curve seems to have flattened. My Libido is low.
Maybe it’s because we are together all the time and as I wrote in my last blog post, regularity is not a recipe for romance. So I have been changing things up, bringing spontaneity into the kitchen and the bedroom. Trying new foods and initiating new things has staved off the boredom. We both practice Chi Gong and have been teaching each other new moves. We have also been playing the Yes/No game from my new book Good Food: Better Sex. You can try this clothed or naked. I will describe here how to play with your clothes on. You can use your imagination or buy the book if you want to try it naked.
First, ask your partner where they are feeling tension in their body? Where would they most like to be touched and how? As the receiver, check in with yourself; do you want to lie down, sit at the kitchen table, or be held in the giver’s arms? How is the quality of touch you want; light stroking of the hair, firm kneading of the shoulders or simply holding hand? Don’t forget to inform the giver of any areas that are out of bounds, where you don’t want to be touched.
As touch begins the receiver says yes and repeats yes as long as the physical sensation feels pleasurable. As the giver, you can begin to move slowly around the body, perhaps from the arm to the shoulder or from the belly to the breast. As long as the receiver is saying yes then continue. It is essential to hear a verbal “Yes” before continuing. If you hear nothing, take this as a no and massage another area or body part. As the receiver, be clear, if you are feeling yes, say YES and if you are feeling no, say NO. Also, you are encouraged to change your mind. As the receiver, you can also say “that is lovely but I’ve had enough on my feet could you rub my back”
As the giver check-in and ask if what you are doing is enjoyable. If you have been stroking their calves and want to work on their feet, you can always verbally check in with them again before you change. In this way, we are listening to our partner and they are being heard.
I recommend setting a time limit, perhaps begin with two minutes and swap roles after the time is up. When you have more time and you feel like making it more intimate you can increase the time but at first, keep it short and easy. This shouldn’t be a chore. Through this simple, enjoyable two minute exercise we are really listening to our partner and we are really being heard.
Fear and panic can also decrease libido. As a Shiatsu practitioner, I really know how effective touch is to reduce stress and anxiety. If you don’t have a partner I encourage you to massage yourself, begin with your feet and hands, or just stroke your shoulders. Self-pleasure is most effective when we feel good so begin by using touch as a tool for health.
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How to become more body confident, loving your food, loving your body and loving your life.
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Maybe you made promises to have and to hold, love and cherish your partner till death did you part but I wonder if that included lockdown situations? With the occasional burst of entertainment, mixed with long stretches with no other company, you may not be so beguiled by each other. Nowadays you can Netflix and Chill every night, but I wonder how that is working out for you, how is your relationship now that you are living together 24/7? Are you trying new things or has the boredom of lockdown seeped into the bedroom?
One area in which people do seem to be trying new things is in the kitchen. On social media, it seems like we are all experimenting with food. Everyone is posting their banana bread, buttermilk scones and sourdough starter. There’s lots of playing with food, experimenting and trying new things. With time on our hands, we are changing and adapting to our new situation by refreshing our menu and falling in love with food all over again.
Romance is something that is on the table at the beginning of a relationship when two people are learning about each other. Couples take each other out to dinner. They cook for each other, curious to discover the other person’s likes and dislikes. Shared food is a shared pleasure, all the more exciting when things are new. However, romance becomes stale when you get stuck in a rut. When you get up at the same time, do the same things, cook the same food, watch the same TV, go to bed with the same routine, and even lovemaking can become repetitive. However allowing change, even promoting change within the relationship will keep it alive. So just like trying new recipes, embrace this COVID-19 altered pace of life during lockdown by trying new things in your relationship. Base your love upon the fundamental truth that everything changes. If a relationship can change, it can remain fresh and romantic.
Perhaps this is why there has been a sharp rise in sales of the book Good Food: Better Sex. This book mixes the health benefits of food in Traditional Chinese Medicine with sexual health practices found in Tantra and Taoism. There are fun simple exercises with food such as blindfold play with home-made chocolate covered strawberries. There is a recipe for natural lube with guidance on how to use it, and plenty of practical exercises to bond you and your partner from different ways of touch and ways to say yes and no.
Then there is the food. With over 100 different recipes to improve all areas of sexual health, try tasting something new together from watermelon and beetroot juice with its viagra effects, to the gentle spices of onion pilaf and Kashmiri cauliflower which boost immunity and ease the digestive system. Try the oat milk pancakes with pecans and natural yogurt for a perfect Sunday brunch to calm the nervous system, boost fertility, and raise libido.
• 350ml milk (almond and brown rice milk also works well) 1 egg
• Pinch of salt
Liquidize the oats, buckwheat flour, eggs and milk so that it becomes a milky mixture. Make sure there are no lumps before leaving to rest for at least half an hour. In a large non-stick pan, melt a nob of butter and coat the pan with it. Pour a ladleful (approx. 50ml) of the prepared pancake mixture onto the pan, tilting it so that it covers the base with a thin coating. These are a crepe style pancake rather than a thick American pancake. When bubbles begin to form on the top of the batter in the pan, flip and cook for another couple of minutes. Slide from the pan onto a plate, dolloping natural yogurt on top with a drizzle of maple syrup and sprinkle with chopped pecans.
Good Food: Better Sex focuses on how the body responds to food using flavours, colours, seasons and the senses. It makes it easy and straightforward for you and your partner to try something new and exciting with food. So instead of eating your dinner in front of the TV together, why not bring back the romance and surprise each other by trying something new? When we emerge from Lockdown, you can look back at this time as having enjoyed deepening connections, Good Food and hopefully Better Sex.
I can teach you how to understand your body and take control of all areas of your health. How to become more body confident, loving your food, loving your body and loving your life.
Courses include: 2 Online Consultations, regular Q&A check in’s, PLUS Copy of Conscious Cookbook sent straight to your door
PLUS 30 Days / 30 Videos – bitesize cookery programs, Chi-Gong exercises, and self-shiatsu acupressure points in your own home.
Flow with the figure 8 and feel the mind & body relax.
Just before COVID-19 hit, I had invested my savings into self-publishing my new book, Good Food: Better Sex. I’d taken a leap of faith and thought I can do this, it’s time for me to expand and flourish, the world needs what I have to offer. So relying on sales of the book, my online courses, upcoming retreats and regular Shiatsu clients, I stepped into my spotlight and was suddenly blinded by the unforeseen impact of a virus I had seen start thousands of miles away in China. My clinic closed, retreats canceled and upcoming TV and media appearances no longer had space to talk about Good Food and Better Health. The threat of the virus was very real as one of my sons has an underlying chest condition so I made plans to take him and his twin to stay with their dad, living on an island off Ireland. That seemed to be the safest place for them to be.
At this point, it felt like I’d lost everything. I had no money, no family, no clients, and it seemed like my new book could be dead in the water. I too left my home in Dublin and moved in with my partner in Castletownbere, West Cork, the end of nowhere. No more bustling city, and interaction with neighbours, now there’s only fields and sheep. What was going to happen now that I had lost all control of my life? DRAMA – I thought poor me!!
I soon realized I’m not dead. I have access to running water, a warm bed to sleep in and food in the fridge. I am just having change forced on me when I was not expecting or prepared for it. However, nothing in life stays the same – the one constant is that everything changes.
The first law of thermodynamics states “Energy cannot be created nor destroyed”, energy is infinite, it goes on and on and on. To our narrow perception, this does not seem to ring true. It seems like we use energy and then it is gone. We burn coal or collect wind for electricity which turns on the TV, the lights or charges our phones. But when the TV is turned off, or the batteries run low, it seems like the energy is used up. But that is not true, it has just changed form. Fire converts chemicals into thermal and light energy. When you turn off the light, the electromagnetic energy is still present, it just is not visible. An easy example is sunlight which transforms earth to give the food which we, eat, digest, and transform into our energy, along with waste material which goes back into the earth.
The symbol used to represent this flow of energy and therefore life is the endless horizontal figure ∞. It is used in mathematical equations and I am using it in my daily Chi Gong practice to calm the mind and body. It’s one thing to know something, but another to feel it. To help the surges of anxiety, chest tightening, poor sleep, overwork, overthinking, panic-inducing, grief and uncertainty we may be feeling, I’m sharing a few Chi Gong exercises that help the mind and body loosen the fear by using the figure ∞. Energy doesn’t travel in straight lines. As I said before, it doesn’t have a beginning and an endpoint. It loops and flows, spiraling and swirling as it travels. We see it in the way rivers flow and the breeze blows. Large retail companies make use of this knowledge when guiding shoppers through their stores so they don’t come through one door and out of another. They meander through shops and end up in the sections full of temptation they had not anticipated. In my Shiatsu Clinic, I diagnose where energy is stuck in the body and help it flow through the meridians which flow in circles and figure 8’s through the body.
Making these fluid 8 shapes with our body has a wonderfully calming effect on the mind. I have been sharing them on Facebook Live at 8.30 every morning since lockdown began so that I can remain within the flow of the current situation rather than be frozen in fear. This transitory state of lockdown during the coronavirus will pass. It will change and transform. I will change and transform, with the help of a practice grounded in a strong back and an open heart. I look forward to seeing where we all are when the world emerges. Acts of kindness to others have become commonplace and there is a deeper understanding of working together for a common good.
PS – after my initial despair, unexpectedly sales of the book and the online course began flowing I could not have predicted a sales spike when my daily work was less than ever. It seems that during lockdown we all have time and space to explore Good Food and Better Sex
Now is the time to make changes to your health and your diet
I can teach you how to understand your body and take control of all areas of your health.
Courses include: Online Consultation PLUS Copy of Conscious Cookbook sent straight to your door
Tailored Videos – bitesize cookery programs, Chi-Gong exercises, and self-shiatsu acupressure points in your own home.
During this time of uncertainty and fear, we may be experiencing insomnia, dizziness, chest tightening, shortness of breath, palpitations, or unexplained rashes and temperature fluctuations. These anxiety-related symptoms, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, point to the heart. Every organ in the body is in service to the heart and it is central to our wellbeing. So at this jittery time, it is essential to keep it calm and healthy. Here are a few tips to keep the heart pumping easily and the blood flowing smoothly.
In Chinese Medicine, red foods benefit the heart. It is the antioxidant anthocyanins, that give foods their red and deep purple color, which together with bioactive polyphenols, help detoxify the blood ensuring easy distribution. Good circulation and easy flow of blood are essential at times of high stress to prevent a rise in blood pressure. Good blood flow makes sure all your organs, tissues and muscles are oxygenated reducing inflammation and heat. So up your intake of red peppers, beetroot, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, Chinese red dates, goji berries, watermelon, rosehips and pomegranates.
This can be in a mixed fruit salad or a summer lettuce salad but for something different try mixing pomegranate with a carbohydrate such as bulghar wheat and flat-leaf parsley. Use a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of olive oil for a wonderful warm salad. Recipe on page 200 of Good Food: Better Sex
All these red fruit and vegetables contain high doses of vitamin C. Most people are aware of the health properties of Vitamin C for the immune system. When we have a cold we reach for the orange juice but did you know Vitamin C can do more than just protect us from the common cold. It helps convert cholesterol into bile and prevents gallbladder disease. It destroys free radicals in the bloodstream, which are responsible for cell damage and the obvious signs of aging. It helps the body absorb Iron, it helps us burn off stored body fat and most importantly for the heart, it helps to rebuild damaged tissues and arteries which transport the blood to all parts of the body. It helps synthesize collagen which keeps arteries flexible and flowing reducing blood pressure, shortness of breath and chest pain.
Tomatoes are perfect heart-friendly food. They even look like a heart with their blood-red outside and cavities inside. In the 5 element system of Traditional Chinese Medicine where organs have a colour, a flavour, an emotion and a time of day to keep them tip-top healthy, it is the bitter flavour that serves the heart. In western medicine, the tomatoes high lycopene and potassium content dilate and protect the blood vessels, meaning lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease. Unlike other vegetables that lose their minerals when cooked, lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when cooked. So a tomato sauce with plenty of red onions, red peppers and sweet potatoes, would be perfect heart-healthy food to keep us in the pink.
Then we come to the emotional aspect of the heart. The element for the Heart is Fire so don’t let emotions feed the flames so they overwhelm you, leaving your heart damaged and your spirit overwhelmed. Take a little distance from events. Just for ten minutes allow yourself to settle. Park thoughts and feelings that are occupying your mind. Allowing ten minutes of solitude. When you sit in silence, without distractions of the news and external events, something begins to happen. At first, you may feel frightened and alone but gradually, with practice, you will hear only your heartbeat which helps develop a sense of deep unwavering internal rhythm. By establishing a sense of self you won’t be swept away on the tsunami of other people’s panic and fearful outcomes. Your heart will a peaceful home in which to rest.
Try this next exercise either whilst sitting in silence or when you feel overwhelmed and anxious. Open and close both hands into fists. Make sure your fingers curl down to touch the palms of your hands, then stretch out to fully expand the fingers. Use the middle fingers to find the calming point in the centre of your palm. Open and close your hands at least 15 times and feel the circulation. Try doing it with your arms open wide for extra expansion and blood movement. This increases blood supply to the heart and distracts the mind from overthinking and worry by bringing the attention back into the body and our peaceful, steady heartbeat.
Everyone needs to eat but these days when we are all inside, we may not be eating from hunger but to pass the time. Grazing and overeating is a real problem when we can’t get out and about. Perhaps your daily commute, striding trips to the shops or taking a walk with friends has disappeared. Here are some tips so we don’t exit cocooning with more problems than we went in with.
Love your food but don’t overindulge.
Think of your food as a special lover, keep it sexy.
Remember sexual energy isn’t about sexual intercourse. it’s about keeping your passion and joy for life, making sure the Chi is metabolized and flowing. So keep food light and tactile. Eat food that won’t slow down your body’s digestive systems such as red meat, cheese or heavy cream. Rather go for grilled mackerel with poached eggs or a tactile tomato and onion salad with a tangy lemon dressing. Mix your carbs into a salad so that elements of your diet are raw. Try the Bulghar and Pomegranate Salad on page 200 of Good Food Better Sex. These types of food support the liver and detoxify blood so that it flows easily, nourishes organs and maintains libido energy. To increase intimacy, eat using your fingers including plenty of eye contact with your partner over a table. Even though the meal could be a chaotic throng of kids and grandparents, your partner will know you are thinking just about them and the delights to come later. If you are cocooning alone savor your mealtimes and your food. Turn the TV or radio off. Enjoy the silence and relationship you have with the food that will become your energy. Eat your salads with your fingers, take your time, there’s plenty of it.
In Chinese Medicine, the Liver is also responsible for flexibility and frustration. So to make sure you stay calm with kids, avoid confrontation with teenagers and maintain your libido avoid other liver straining foods such as alcohol. Create mocktails instead. Using fresh juice, add sprigs of mint or use a potato peeler to create cucumber slivers so the drink becomes a treat, not a chore. On a practical note try watermelon and beetroot, as these foods contain vitamins and minerals that aid erectile dysfunction and reduce vaginal dryness. (more info: Good Food Better Sex)
When everyone is inside, finding space for intimate moments can be tricky but it’s important to remember that sexual intercourse begins way before the bedroom. Great intimacy requires connection so set a timer for 10 minutes and listen to your partner as they tell you their thoughts and fears. Maybe they are unsure about the CoronaVirus or the future. Maybe there’s a particular thing you are doing that’s annoying them. Listen to them without comment or interruption as they tell you how they are feeling. You may encourage them with phrases such as “tell me more” but don’t judge, try to fix or explain yourself. Then turn the tables and you talk. This requires really deep listening and acceptance for the other person’s opinions and beliefs. You can use this technique with any family member or a person you are sharing space with, it relieves tension and aids communication.
If you want to take this to the next level, set the timer again but this time ask them where they would like to be touched and how they would like to be touched. This can be done via skype or over the phone. It can be sexual or sensual. You can describe how you would like to be stroked, it is with a feather or fingernails, which part of the body and for how long. Or you can simply ask to be held and rocked. Honest communication is key to healthy, happy life full of love. You can also do this exercise solo. Your pleasure is never someone else’s responsibility and remember: Outercourse comes before intercourse
I hope this insight into how you can use Chinese Medicine to complement your health by simply using food as medicine. To keep the body active, join me Facebook Live every morning during lockdown at 8.30 for Chi Gong and Makka-Ho meridian stretches
Now is the time to make the change to your diet and health I can teach you how to understand your body and take control of all areas of your health.
Courses include: 2 Online Consultations PLUS Copy of Conscious Cookbook sent straight to your door
PLUS 30 Days / 30 Videos – bitesize cookery programs, Chi Gong routines and self-shiatsu in your own home.