There’s no doubt how popular Sea swimming, including the open water of lakes and rivers, has become.  A 2020 survey in Outdoor Swimmer magazine revealed

– 87% swimmers are aged over 40 and

– 65% of swimmers are women [1].

Why is this?

Gyms and swimming pools can be intimidating places for us peri, mid and post menopausal women. They’re often filled with much younger people, complicated equipment and lots of mirrors. But swimming outdoors brings us back to nature, with a gratitude for our bodies, and a camaraderie with other swimmers.

In the water, all bodies become equal

Here I will show you how can you optimise the health benefits of Outdoor swimming using:

  • – Food medicine
  • – Qi Gong breathing and exercise
  • – Acupressure point

We can all agree, because sea swimming is never recommended to do alone, that we benefit from the social aspect of sea swimming, but physically how is it good for you?

In many schools of thought in Chinese medicine, cold and the ‘blood stagnation’ that it can cause, can be considered a very detrimental factor in our health.

A simple way of understanding this is to compare the blood circulation of a newly born baby with that of a 90-year-old. It is very rare to see a bruise on a baby.  Even though they are always falling over and knocking themselves, their blood circulation is so good that they heal incredibly quickly.

But if you look at the hands and feet of a 90-year-old they can look blue and bruised, often due to poor circulation.

What happens as we age?

As we age the body can stiffen up, not only in the joints but also in the elasticity of your blood vessels.

Especially during peri, mid or post menopause, low estrogen levels can cause your heart and blood vessels to become stiffer and less elastic.

In response to the cold water your blood vessels constrict but instead of this having a detrimental effect this actually improves the oxygenation of the body, reducing pain and swelling plus improving lymphatic drainage.

In terms of Chinese Medicine this is a great example of the interconnectedness of Yin and Yang.

When something is extremely Yang it becomes Yin and vice versa.

For example, cold is Yin, but when our body experiences extreme cold it begins to shiver and our metabolic rate increases forcing the body to burn more calories and the blood to flow through arteries, keeping things warm. This is Yang.

When, either Yin or Yang, reaches its maximum strength, it transforms into the other.

An extreme example would be war which is Yang, active, noisy, hot, and full of movement, but at its extreme completion, you are left with death, silence and Yin.  The cycle of life will keep turning, Yin and Yang will keep intertwining, supporting and transforming into each other, it is the nature of the Dao.

So be aware of the changes in your body as you enter the water. There is a tipping point where coldness transforms to heat. Feel the exhilarating bounce back as the cold Yin water triggers the bodies Yang response and flushes warmth throughout the whole body.

But don’t get too cold.  Leave the water when you can still move your fingers and toes.  You want to come out of the water looking pink, with a healthy flushed glow of Yang not deathly white, waxy Yin.

From a Chinese Medicine standpoint, too much cold will lead to stagnation which can be the cause of many illnesses.   

Many of the metabolic processes of the body such as digestion, immunity and reproduction are seen as coming from types of fire deep inside the body.

Make sure that you have the physical inner strength to activate the body’s internal fires.  If you are feeling physically weak or sick, you are more likely to shock the body, to get sick or, in the extreme, hypothermia.

Use the energy of food to work with your body and heat it from the inside out.

What to eat and what not to eat to keep warm

In Chinese Medicine food and drink have various thermal natures and dynamic actions on the body so making sure you have a warming, energizing drink when leaving the water to help stoke the internal fires.

Some helpful ingredients would be cinnamon, ginger, cacao and, of course, Chai with spices such as cardamon, clove, coriander and black pepper.

Things to avoid would be mint, cucumber, lettuce and sub tropical foods such as bananas.



Make these teas and bring them in a flask to drink after you have had your swim and after you have got dry and dressed.


Make sure not to stand around shivering after leaving the water

The Qi Gong exercises and we will practice in November specifically strengthen body balance, which can be difficult if you are standing on one leg, on pebbly, uneven ground, shivering, and trying to get your clothes on.

The first thing to do is dry your feet and put warm socks and shoes and boots on.  Don’t wait until the rest of you is dry before thinking of your feet.

Your feet and ankles are the place to start because in Chinese Medicine there are some major points on the feet that influence the whole body energy, starting with Kidney 1 and Kidney 3.

The Kidney energetic system governs the core energy of the body – both Yin and Yang.  It governs our reproductive energy.  This energy isn’t just about making babies, it’s about regenerating our bodies at a cellular level; hair cells, skin cells, bone cells, blood cells.  in Western Medicine we could liken it to our DNA

Every part of our body is constantly regenerating, the rate at which it regenerates slows as we age so it is essential to conserve this Kidney energy.

The Kidney energy governs our skeleton, our hormones, our brain, our very bone marrow.

Kidney Yin is in charge of nurturing the functions of the body.  It is the rest and restore aspect of the nervous system, moisturizing and lubricating. 

When out of balance we can suffer:

  • – hormonal imbalance and extreme menopausal symptoms
  • – dizziness or vertigo.
  • – night sweats.
  • – thirst and dry mouth, especially at night.
  • – constipation.
  • – ringing in the ears/tinnitus.
  • – poor memory.
  • – hearing loss.
  • – sore back
  • – Internal dryness.

Kidney Yang lights the fires of the body, digestive, protective and reproductive.

Poor Kidney Yang means

  • – Chronic illness
  • – Premature ageing
  • – Impotence, low libido
  • – Cold lower back and limbs
  • – Excessive urination

Use the following points to improve both Kidney Yin and Yang


Descends the Chi, brings the energy down.

Found on the sole of the foot between the 2nd and 3rd metatarsal bones. Flex the toes upward and find the depression for the thumb to press.

The bubbling spring point is our grounding point.  We draw energy up from the earth through this point so if it becomes solid cold and blocked so too does our energy.  Kidney 1’s downward energy invites calm, grounded being which is what we need if we want to get the most from our outdoor swimming.


    Invigorates Kidney Yin and Yang, regulating hormones, menstruation and mood swings. 

    Relieves fatigue.

    Find the point on the inside of the foot between the ankle bone and Achille’s Tendon.

    These points are so important that I would recommend wearing booties to swim in especially in the winter.

    Think of what happens to water when it gets too cold.  It becomes ice, which doesn’t flow and doesn’t move. It creaks and cracks.  This can happen to our energy.

    How we enter the cold water is essential 

    Just like the Wim Hoff method, Qi Gong uses breathing exercises, focus training and controlled easy movements to improve our range of movement plus management of pain and stress.  The release of endorphins during the breathing practice combined with the entry into the cold water can help with all manner of depression, anxiety and trauma.

    Another crucial benefit this activity offers is for our emotional and mental well being.

    Using Qi Gong breathing techniques, you can master breath control which can help you remain in the water for longer.  The controlled breathing can also be used to stoke the internal fires, keeping the core of the body warm and circulation flowing.

    The movement meditation of the Qi Gong practice will help you remain more focused in the water.  You can get in the “zone” mastering your mind and body so that the two become one and you return to your true nature and feel at one with the water, the air and the people around you.

    Use the Qi Gong Food Medicine and Acupressure to support your sea swimming, maintaining those feelings of post swim high right through the day and into the night.

    Remember Chi Flow with Jo is a great community filled with women just like you

    There’s discussion and camaraderie because we are live every morning, so just like a sea swim you can begin your day right, pointing your mind and body in the direction of health, wealth, community and happiness.


    Cold water swimming does not suit everybody. If someone has been diagnosed with arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure or other cardiovascular diseases, it will not be suitable for him or her to start cold water swimming. This is because sudden cold stimulation will raise blood pressure, and can increase the chance of heart attack and brain stroke. Sometimes it can even cause sudden death. For patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, joint pain might get worse after cold water stimulation. For ladies who have period pain, winter swimming is also not advisable. For epilepsy patients, any kind of swimming is contraindicated.


    When Panic Attacks …..

    When Panic Attacks …..

    In my last post “What to eat when Panic Attacks “ I explained how Chinese Medicine uses the bitter flavour of food to calm and support the heart when you are feeling anxiety and panic.  This kind of attack is usually driven by anticipatory stress, running around too busy juggling too many things.  However, more and more I see in my practice how burn out and exhaustion are causing these same symptoms and playing havoc with peoples bodies and minds.

    The heart with its racing palpitations and chest tightening panic can be a symptom of the over exertion of the nervous system and the depletion of Kidney energy. Just like a car that over revs the engine, the adrenal glands that sit just above the kidneys, pump hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into the body causing your heart to beat faster, elevating your blood pressure, increases blood sugar and draws energy supplies from the body that are needed for digestion and repair.  When the body is already exhausted and you are already running on empty this can cause symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks.

    But how did we get here and what can we do?

    One hundred years ago, the lives of most people were deeply structured, we had a clear sense of identity, sets of societal and religious rules to live by. We knew where we belonged because religion and society rarely allowed personal freedom. How we lived and how we died was set when, and whom we were born to.

    However, now more than ever we have a choice about our lives.  As a woman living in Europe, I can chose which country I live in, I can chose my gender, my government, my job – everything I identify as, I have a choice about. Compared to 100 years ago where people, especially women had far fewer choices.  Marriage, children, employment, social class; one’s life path had far less variety of choice.

    Unfortunately there are still places in the world that don’t allow that freedom of choice for human beings. I call out Iran and their killing of #Mahsa_Amini

    Let us all stand together in connected peaceful protest so that all human beings have the freedom to express themselves.
    Freedom of Choice is something humans need for growth and evolution.

    But as we see in Iran, emotional growth can often stir up fear and resistance in people who would like to stick with the “normal” because with freedom of choices can come great responsibility.

    With choices comes a great feeling of responsibility and questions such as: am I getting it right?  is there something better?  would I be happier somewhere else, with someone else?  With freedom of choice can come self doubt and the pressure to get it right, to have it all leads us to over work, over thinking, over-achieving, over doing and and eventually burn out.

    I wouldn’t go back 100 years, I love the personal choice and the personal freedom.  As a single mum of 3 boys, I have never wanted to marry.  I own my own house and run my own business but I am very aware of the pressure that comes with this personal freedom – awareness is the first step to making change and being well …… Let me share

    I used to suffer from Panic Attacks but I kept it quiet.

    I felt a failure because I couldn’t cope. I could hardly stand in a queue in the supermarket without feeling the rising fear of panic and adrenaline rush up my spine.

    The terror as I gritted my teeth and forced myself not to let the emotions take over. I told myself over and over, I wasn’t going to collapse as my head span and cold sweat covered my body. it was emotionally and physically draining.

    It all began when my twin boys were 3 and my youngest was 3 months old. I was a 42-year-old, single mum who had just lost a partner and her business. I was driving back on the motorway from a kids party an hour from my house. In the fast lane overtaking, with the three kids in the car, the world began to spin and my vision went black. I don’t know how I managed to carry on driving but on a Sunday afternoon the road wasn’t busy and I made it over to the hard shoulder. I sat in the car trying to breathe, trying to calm myself. The kids were fast asleep and strapped in and that helped. When I managed to calm my breath, the trembling and the tears began. I felt so alone, I felt I had no one to call to come and help me, support me, drive me home, so I sat on the hard shoulder sobbing. Then, driving at a snail’s pace, I drove myself home.

    I realised through my knowledge and application of Traditional Chinese Medicine what had happened. I was exhausted, my nervous system was completely overworked and stretched tight to a frazzled snapping point. I had grown 3 children inside me in the space of 3 years and I was approaching 42, which if you read the previous post, is a potent time for a shift in hormones. This all relates to the kidneys in Chinese Medicine and so I began to make changes in my life.

    I used foods that support the Kidney & Bladder which are salty in flavour and blue/black in colour such as seaweeds and adzuki beans.

    I avoided the Kidney draining foods such as coffee that I was overusing to get me through the long days and crying baby nights and made the kidney strengthening Barley water instead.

    I also used acupressure potent points and simple Qi Gong exercises for calming a panic attack. It took me a good few years to calm my nervous system but using Chinese Medicine I understood what my body was saying to me before it needed to shout it loud with a panic attack.  Im 54 years old now – sailing through my menopause WITHOUT hot flushes, sleepless nights or any more panic attacks – it is possible and I can help you make that change.

    If you would like to learn to listen to your body you can buy the easy to use cookbooks or watch the 1-minute video and learn a potent acupressure point that reduces chest tightness, panic, anxiety, shortness of breath.

    YouTube player

    For the month of October we will be focusing on Reducing Anxiety with Qi Gong, Food Medicine and Acupressure points – why not join us for the free class

    Free Class Sign Up


    What to eat when Panic Attacks

    What to eat when Panic Attacks

    In my last post, I shared an Acupressure Point that I found personally useful during panic attacks, palpitations and shortness of breath that I suffered just after I had twins, 19 years ago. Even though they are teenagers and way more stressful now, I have learned and used many different tools to balance my body so that the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline don’t flood my body and fry my mind.

    I’m grateful for the Shiatsu acupressure and Qi Gong work I do, which uses the 5element system of Traditional Chinese Medicine to interpret symptoms and treat the body using acupressure points, meridian stretches and dietary advice.

    I love having a toolkit of different techniques with which to balance the body. Below I share a simple recipe that helps to calm the mind and bring the heart home, aiding sleep and relaxation.

    During the 1990s when I ran an environmental awareness and coaching agency I thought I had to think of everything. I felt that if I wasn’t on top of all my work, it would fall apart. My mind often wouldn’t let me sleep. It wouldn’t turn off. Instead of sleeping, I would run through future scenarios and presentations. Irrationally my mind thought it could control outcomes.  If I could only think of everything, especially in the middle of the night, then everything would be ok. It was exhausting, physically and mentally.

    It was at this time I was embarking on my Shiatsu journey when my teacher introduced me to the power of lettuce as a natural sedative, it really worked. I would drink the tea in the early evening and I would find that my sleep was better. If I woke in the night I would take a shot of pre-prepared Lettuce Juice in the fridge and I’d go straight back to sleep.

    From a Chinese Medicine perspective, each of the organs has a flavour.  Lettuce of all varieties including Chicory and Endive pictured here, has a bitter flavour and so benefits the heart.

    The heart is said to be where our Shen, our consciousness, our spirit lives. so eating foods with this bitter flavour such as basil, coriander, radish, beetroot, chicory, endive, and pomegranate will help heart function and provide a home in which the Shen spirit can settle. This will help with insomnia, heart palpitations, anxiety, overthinking and restlessness of the mind.  For more foods check out previous Heart Health post

    It all sounds very poetic but believe me it works.


    Recipe from the Holistic Cookbook – Good Food: Better Sex

    Lettuce Tea Tonic – pg 235

    Lettuce contains a chemical called lactucarium which is the white milky substance you see when you break the leaf along the stem. As opposed to opioids this substance has no harmful side effects. Try and see for yourself.

    Take 5-6 leaves of romaine or butterhead lettuce and place into a saucepan.  Pour a litre of boiling water over the leaves of a head of Romaine or Butterhead lettuce, simmer in a pan with the lid on at a low temperature for 5 minutes, strain and drink.

    It’s a very refreshing tasting tea tasting similar to chamomile.  But it is more potent at being able to physically relax the body, relieving fullness in the chest and tightness in the mind.  This is great to drink in the early evening as it is a great support for sleep and stopping insomnia, which in Chinese Medicine would be caused by the heart not being able to settle.

    Chinese Medicine is over 4000 years old and the 5elements give a system where you can understand your symptoms and the cause of them. If you would like to find out more you can read all about the system in Shiatsu & the Art of Conscious Cooking or Good Food: Better Sex. This lists all the five elements, their flavours, times of the year, emotions, ailments and offers recipes plus acupressure points to transform them.  It’s packed full of Food Medicine, Acupressure Points and Energy Exercises 

    Or why not try a free class with me – enter your email below and I will send you a link for the zoom class which takes place on the last day of each month.

    Free Class Sign Up



    Healthy Heart – physical foods and emotional tips

    Healthy Heart – physical foods and emotional tips

    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.

    If you’d like more food medicine tips, take a look at the books.

    Why not try a free class with me at the end of the month.  Register here and I’ll send you the recording if you can’t make the live.

    Free Class Sign Up