Author Archives: Elissa Gonda

Forgotten Medicine: Squatting and Floor Sitting

  In November of 2007, I interned at the Guangzhou Institute for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), in Guangzhou, China. When traveling in China, I observed that Chinese people, young and old, rested in a flat-footed squat. While our upscale hotel boasted western toilets, squat toilets prevailed in every public place that I visited, including the hospital, restaurants, and tourist attractions. Back home in the land of criss-cross-apple-sauce, I rarely, if ever, saw anyone squatting. To my knowledge, no one was using a squat toilet. I lived in Japan and Korea during elementary school, so I was not a stranger to squatting to use the bathroom. During my China internship, however, I discovered a strange phenomenon: squatting to pee took more coordination than I remembered. Truthfully, it felt a little awkward to sit in a deep flat-footed squat of any kind. An epic adventure in a local shop’s restroom, involving me and a tiny squat toilet, which was located partly beneath a sink and nearly flush with a wall, left me plagued with a question…how on earth do they do it? Shortly after returning to Wisconsin, I became pregnant with my first child. I planned a homebirth with a certified professional midwife. While reading about natural childbirth, I discovered that in traditional cultures, women often squat to give birth. Squatting widens the pelvic outlet and takes advantage of gravitational force.¹ It was on. I began doing squatting exercises regularly, determined to squat my baby out. Ultimately, I gave birth in a supine position, leaning back against the side of the birth tub. Though I squatted throughout my labor, I had little squatting stamina while applying the extreme downward pressure that I found necessary for giving birth. My recovery from childbirth was difficult. Every part of my pelvis hurt: SI joints, pubic symphysis, hip joints, ischial tuberosities. I delivered my daughter naturally, but my postpartum pelvic pain left me strongly considering taking pain medications. Soon afterwards, I experienced a mild cystocele. The symptoms resolved over several months with the use of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy®. At 30 years of age, however, I was a wreck about it. Intuitively I knew that something wasn’t right, and it wasn’t just me. Given that childbirth is imperative to the survival of our species, common sense dictates that healthy young women should be able to vaginally deliver babies without … Continue reading

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Gentle, Natural Skin Care

  In response to some recent questions, I’d like to share my skin care routine with you! Here are the products that I use: Pure Raw Clay (Masks & Baths) Raw Organic Moroccan Argan Oil Raw Organic Coconut Oil Cackle Bees Honey Bar Soap I like to keep skin care really simple. I allow my skin to function naturally, with the least amount of intervention. Tempting though it may be, I try to avoid the idea that I can outsmart my skin’s innate intelligence and self-understanding. I trust that everything my skin does, it does on purpose. My intention in caring for my complexion is to assist my body in functioning to its fullest potential. My skin is an external reflection of my internal state. To appear vibrant and alive to the outside world, I consume vibrant foods that are full of life. To keep my external appearance unblemished, I keep my consumption clean. I avoid or limit my intake of sugar, salt, caffeine, and alcohol; and I choose internal and external nourishment that is free from chemical additives. I only use soap to wash my face when I take a shower, every 2-3 days. I prefer a gentle soap made by a local beekeeper, called Cackle Bees Honey Bar Soap, which contains 4 saponified oils, beeswax, and honey (confession: sometimes I don’t use soap at all…GASP!). Between showers, I simply rinse my face with plain water. I love the Moroccan skin care routine. Once per week I use a clay mask on my face, neck, and decolletage. I prefer pure, raw, Moroccan Rhassoul Clay (with no added ingredients), because it is not drying. I apply the clay up to a quarter of an inch thick, and rinse it off before it dries, about 20 minutes later. I use a wet washcloth, and try to avoid rubbing. After a clay mask, and after each shower, I thinly apply 100% raw, organic, Moroccan Argan Oil (with no added ingredients) to the same areas. It only takes a few drops! Blemishes can be treated with a thick blob of clay, which is rinsed off before it dries. I keep a jar of clay handy, ready for use, because clay performs best when it has been prepared in advance. To prepare clay for use, I fill a pint sized mason jar halfway with dry clay, and cover the clay with water. There is no need … Continue reading

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A Book Review: “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by Weston A. Price, DDS

  “How different the level of life and horizon of such souls from those in many places in the so-called civilized world in which people have degraded themselves until life has no interest in values that cannot be expressed in gold or pelf, which they would obtain even though the life of the person being cheated or robbed would thereby be crippled or blotted out. One immediately wonders if there is not something in the life-giving vitamins and minerals in the food that builds not only great physical structures within which their souls reside, but builds minds and hearts capable of a higher type of manhood in which the material values of life are made secondary to individual character.” (Price, 26). I recently endeavored to read an epic book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston A. Price, DDS (1870-1948). Dr. Weston A. Price was a dentist who dedicated his life to the scientific and anthropological study of nutrition and its effects on dental health; specifically the incidence of dental cavities, the breadth of the dental arch, and the crowding of teeth. Poignant and thought-provoking, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration details the basic principles of indigenous diets, as they were originally composed before the advent of what Dr. Price called “the displacing foods of modern commerce”. What I learned from this book was strikingly self-evident – it revealed wisdom that I imagine is already contained within all of us, yet begs the illumination that has historically been imparted between generation upon generation of our ancestors. At times, the book is beautiful; regaling the reader with imagery from Weston Price’s inspired travels to remote parts of the world, where he compulsively sought to document the dietary habits of the last remaining isolated cultures on earth; from the Eskimos to the Maori of New Zealand, to the Gaels of the outer Hebrides of Scotland, among many others. Using a number of predetermined metrics, Dr. Price compared the dental health of isolated groups to that of their nearby, modernized counterparts. What he discovered was clear-cut evidence that modern foods, such as white flour, jams, sugar, canned vegetables, condensed milk, and vegetable oils, when introduced into a culture’s diet, were detrimental not only to the dental health of the people, but also to their physical, mental and societal well-being. Accompanying photographs record the enchanting faces and hearty physiques of persons with bright, even, decay-free smiles, … Continue reading

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Mind ~ Body Connection

  “If you want to know what your thoughts were like in the past, look at your body today. If you want to know what your body will look like in the future, look at your thoughts today.” – Deepak Chopra In regards to healing, I believe that the connection between body and mind is paramount to persistent success. All of our tissues are made from the same substances, brain included. Thus, improving overall health improves thought processes & the resulting clarity of thought begets better health care decisions. An attitude of wellness creates a spiraling continuum of advancement, with each successive loop bringing greater awareness & subsequent healing. Thoughts direct Qi (energy). For example, if you close your eyes & bring to mind a lemon: it’s scent, the way it mists when sliced into, and the sweet/sour taste it leaves in your mouth…you can cause yourself to salivate. Another example of this phenomenon occurs when a nursing mother begins to lactate when she thinks about her baby or when she hears a baby crying. In a motivational sense, thoughts direct actions, which are another aspect of Qi. Your actions can be a direct result of your internal dialogue, or the conversation you are engaged in with yourself at any given moment. Listen deeply: what are you and yourself talking about today? Perhaps you consider health and fitness to be priorities, but you can’t find the time or money or energy to devote to wellness. Or perhaps you simply believe that you will never be well. Like me, you may benefit from taking a few moments to listen to your internal dialogue. This process is called ‘metacognition’, in other words, ‘thinking about your own thinking’. I believe that developing metacognition is an essential step that must be taken when traveling a path towards physical wellbeing. For me, what is so lovely about the mind-body connection is that we have control over it. We can influence our bodies in order to influence our minds, and vice versa. Are you beginning to grasp the possibilities? By changing the way we think, we can change the quality of our lives. We are truly the only thing that limits our own blessed existence. Think well & Be well! Elissa

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Does Acupuncture Hurt?

  When people discover that I’m an acupuncturist, the first question I’m always asked is, “Does it hurt?” Unfortunately, fear of needles is one of the biggest deterrents for people who are suffering and could benefit from acupuncture treatment. Thus, I believe that the complex topic of needling sensation deserves my heartfelt and in-depth interpretation.   Patient Comfort   My patients’ comfort is my priority. Pain is a very individual experience, so I never judge a patient’s response to acupuncture, and the vulnerability he or she entrusts to me is held near to heart. The first acupuncture treatment is a learning experience for both of us: patients learn what to expect when receiving acupuncture and I learn how best to treat them. There are a lot of sensations that are completely normal, but if my patient feels uncomfortable at any time, I remove the source of the discomfort immediately. I cultivate the principle of non-violence; never expecting a patient to “tough it out” in order to feel better, continuously monitoring reactions, and adjusting my treatments according to the individual.   Insertion Versus Retention   There are two distinct aspects of an acupuncture treatment: needle insertion and needle retention. After needles have been inserted, they are retained for an average of 20 minutes. The patient lies comfortably on a massage table in a darkened room with relaxing music in the background. During this time, although the patient may have an awareness of needle location, there is no pain. I check on patients every 10 minutes and am commonly greeted by a sleeping patient when I re-enter a room. Before I walk away from a patient I ensure that they are not experiencing any discomfort; if my patient feels nervous or uneasy, I remain in the room or check on him or her more frequently.   The needling sensations I am about to discuss are short lived, occurring only during needle insertion, which takes approximately 5-10 minutes.   Pain Versus Sensation   For someone who has never had acupuncture, the only real frame of reference regarding needling sensation is hypodermic needles. Acupuncture needles are extremely fine, flexible even; once I was told that 18 acupuncture needles will fit into the inner diameter of a hypodermic needle. Acupuncture certainly does not feel like getting a shot or having blood drawn.   I like to differentiate between pain and needling sensation. When a patient … Continue reading

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