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Acupuncture, Aromatherapy, Herbs, Yoga, and Women's circles by Masha Schmidt, L.Ac

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Alchemical Moon Report

New & Full Moon Reports for navigating changing tides.

Breath Practice for the Holidays

Masha Schmidt

Yesterday’s new moon was a practical reminder to slow down…

There was so much happening that I actually overloaded the wiring in my new office! Don’t you wish that humans came with circuit breakers to protect us from overload? Bhramari Pranayama, or ‘bee breath’, is a practice that provides a reset whenever we need one.  Bee breathing creates a womb like state and is a good way to ‘re-wire’ the nervous system.

As a contrast to internal or external chaos, the breath creates a safe place to be still, a place for the spirit of the heart (the Shen) to land.  

Try it with me:

  • Start by sitting up tall or lying down.  I prefer lying down when it’s practical to do so.

  • Close your eyes and draw the focus inward.  Bring a smile to your face, don’t take it so seriously. Don’t force the breath, the mind, or anything else.

  • For this technique all breath is taken in and out through the nose with the mouth closed.  

  • Inhale deeply and close off the throat slightly, making an “mmmmm” sound.

  • Exhale completely.

  • When you’re comfortable inhaling through the nose and exhaling the “mmmmm” buzzing sound, bring the fingertips to the head and close off the flap of cartilage over the ears with your thumbs. It’s also nice to close the eyes with the fingertips. Whatever is comfortable, the intention is to create a feeling of safety.

  • Take several deep breaths in and ‘buzz’ out the breath.  When you feel satisfied, release the hands and keep the eyes closed.  Listen to the sounds around you. Then, open the eyes and notice any changes that have taken place.

Although closing off the eyes and ears creates a very centering experience, it is not recommended in most social situations.  However, simply breathing in and humming quietly on the out breath can be practiced while walking down the street or standing in line. You can even hum along with the Christmas tunes playing everywhere!

Do practice the full bee breath experience at home. The more you anchor in this practice, the easier it is to return to a relaxed state when out in the world.  It becomes another neural pathway, a great alternative to panic.

Bees are amazing creatures.  They cooperate together, they communicate through dancing, and their work supports our fragile ecosystem.  What a gift to embody that kind of power and grace!  


Which element dominates your personality?

Masha Schmidt

Wouldn’t you love a bit of insight into yourself and your loved ones? Whether it’s tarot cards, Ayurvedic doshas, Jungian archetypes, or the Myers-Briggs personality assesment - we all want to know more about ourselves.

I’ve been really enjoying Dondi Dahlin’s work and fresh take on 5 element theory. Here’s a link to her quiz!. Although the psychology of Traditional East Asian medicine over 2,000 years old, it was transmuted by the groundbreaking work of Professor JR Worsley and continues to evolve.

Remember - life is never as tidy as a short quiz on the internet. Within each element there are both excess and deficiency conditions (for example - excess fire can appear as mania and deficient fire can appear as depression). Also - different times in our lives call for the greater expression of one element, such as the nurturing Earth element after having a baby.

Still, most of us are predominantly working with the themes of one or two elements. This helps to explain why even siblings raised in similar circumstances react so differently to the same conditions.

Enjoy! And if you’ve received treatment with me, send a note or comment below with your quiz results so we can compare them to my observations!

Here is some more on each element:

Metal Element: (Associated with: Autumn, Lung/Large Intestine & Grief)

Metal is precise, systematic, meticulous and judgmental. It represents our ability to be even tempered and to control our emotions. Taken too far this can lead to inflexibility - physically as well as in our thinking and temperament. The emotion of metal is grief and the sound is weeping. Pathologically it can manifest as the inability to move on from a sad experience, to cry too much, or be unable to cry. The Lungs are the most vulnerable organ, this can make a metal dominant person prone to catching colds, developing asthma, or lymphatic congestion. This is the element that can allow us to feel things internally before they manifest, and is linked to premonitions. Healthy metal thrives on order, communication, and has a generally positive view. Under stress, we can become constricted, reserved and withdrawn, prone to pessimism.

The color associated with Metal is white, like the fire used to forge steel.

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Water Element: (Associated with Winter, Kidneys/ Bladder & Fear)

Water is the beginning of all life,  and this is the element of endurance - of the deep reserves we pass on to future generations. Associated with winter, Water represents our ability to conserve energy, reflect, and consolidate resources.

Self reflection can be unknown territory without clear boundaries - and the emotion of Water is fear. Processing this fear is where strength and courage are forged. Water dominant personalities can be shy, timid, and less engaged with others. They may appear as dreamers or philosophers, lost in their own worlds. In extreme cases, this can turn to phobias, or depression. A strong and harmonious water element is determined, resourceful, prudent, unwilling to waste energy on what is unnecessary. Deficient Water feels apathetic and powerlessness, is easily discouraged, lacks confidence, and retreats from life. Someone with excess Water has unrestrained will. They are restless and driven, unsettled, work too much, and are compelled by insecurity to succeed at any cost. They will eventually deplete Qi and burn out. (Adrenal Fatigue)

Both Excess and Deficient Water Conditions are rooted in fear. Either the fear is external, or the fear is internal, of deficiency and failure.

The color associated with Water is dark blue or black, like the dark surface of a lake.

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Wood Element: (Associated with Spring, Liver/Gallbladder, & Anger)

Spring is the season of rebirth. The wood element is teeming with creative force. Wood is the timekeeper looking into the future, always planning ahead. The sensory outlet of wood is the eyes, enabling us to look into the future and be optimistic. Wood is affected by the emotions of others and can be very empathetic, however Wood people are also susceptible to addictions. The Wood element likes to be in charge, first in line, ahead of others. It’s energy moves up like a tree and the emotion is anger, which is why pathologically Wood people can be prone to headaches, high blood pressure, outbursts of anger, repressed anger or the inability to feel anger.

Wood rules the sinews and tendons and thrives on exercise. If Liver Qi becomes stagnant, we may experience: spasm, distention, constriction, pain, upset stomach, constipation, headaches, PMS, painful menses, nervous tension & frustration, moodiness, & irritability. Deficient Wood types lack purpose and assertiveness, and experience disharmony stemming from unexpressed anger and resentment. Excess Wood types can be rigid, compulsive, controlling, or explosive.

The color associated with Wood is green, like a new shoot in the spring.

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Fire Element: (Associated with Summer, Heart/Small Intestine, & Joy)

The Fire element burns bright - and is excited, creative and idealistic. As the most Yang of the elements, it fluctuates between extreme expressions of life. Fire loves strongly, but can be deeply wounded. The dominant emotion of fire is joy, but easily becomes over-excitement or anxiety. The tongue is the sensory outlet and when the heart is out of balance this element is prone to inappropriate speech or laughter. Pathologically, fire imbalance can manifest as sleep issues, hot flashes, and heart pain. Fire has the most exuberant expression of Qi, like a  flower - it represents radiance, attraction & fulfillment.

Someone with deficiency of Fire lacks enthusiasm, vibrancy & affection, becoming apathetic or despondent. This can turn into emotional insecurity and distance. An excess of Fire is an agitation of the heart which can appear as palpitations, night sweats, or insomnia. Note that menopause is a time of relative Fire excess and Yin deficiency, and is considered normal and treatable in this system of medicine.

The color of the Fire element is red, like ripe strawberries and roses.

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Earth Element: (Associated with Late Summer, Spleen/Stomach, & Worry)

Earth is about balance, it is the great harmonizer. The associated organs lie in the center and metabolize food as well as emotions, information and experiences. How we take in life and transform it for our growth is the concern of Earth. Pensiveness or worry is the related emotion. Excessive thinking can lead to obsession and distress, taxing this element. Earth is the nourisher, the caretaker, the mother in us all. An earth dominant person out of balance can care for others to the detriment of their needs. Emotionally, this can be expressed as either an excessive need for support, or a fixation on caring for everyone else. Earth deficient types struggle to contain themselves. Healthy boundaries are important for this element.

Earth governs the flesh and prefers sweet flavors. Balance is important as there is a tendency to either over or under nourish, leading to issues with weight.

The color of the Earth element is yellow, like fields of ripe wheat or corn in late summer.

I hope that these ways of seeing yourself and the world are becoming more familiar as you learn and expand. May you find comfort in each season!

Me and Baba Yaga

Masha Schmidt

“She’s dangerous because she can see things in an uncanny light. She knows human nature as it really is. She’s one of your mothers, she’s my mother too.”

-Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD (on Baba Yaga)

When I was a child, Baba Yaga lived on my grandparents fire escape. Now that they have relocated to the spirit world, I’m sure the old witch has moved on, to haunt some other little girl and generally keep an eye on things.

“If you don’t finish what’s on your plate Baba Yaga will eat you up”

“If you’re a bad girl, Baba Yaga will know. She can see near and far.”

In the night, I would run past that window in terror of the things she could do. Eater of little children, flying around in a mortar and pestle, she had the power of fire, of medicine, and of death. When she wasn’t perched on that fire escape in Brooklyn, she made her home at the edge of the borderlands between life and death. Her house was built on chicken feet that could turn in any direction, giving her omniscience. She can occupy many places at once, being magic.

Having only one childhood, and nothing to compare to - I didn’t know that Baba was such an obscure figure. She takes center stage in Slavic folklore and fairy tales, and it is good to understand her value in this world. I think that Americans could use a woman like Baba Yaga.

If you encounter her, she may eat you, put you to work, or give you advice. Do what she asks, and you will be rewarded. She demands that you rely on your intuition when traveling in the borderlands or by fire escape. Don’t be fooled by her ugly toothless face, or her age. Her birch boom can sweep away her own footsteps and can help you remove obstacles.

Why is she dangerous? She’s able to fly, she can pick up and move herself. She doesn’t act her age. She doesn’t accept no for an answer. She has a circle of skulls around her house with flames coming out of their eyes. Sometimes we are in need of fire and she holds the flame. Sometimes she withholds the flame.

If I could go back to that apartment right now, I would ask her for help. Even if I had to accomplish a merciless task, even if I risked being eaten.

I would ask for a little more righteousness in this world, and protection for all of us, but especially young girls. I would ask her to teach us humility and stewardship for this land that we borrow from our children.

Would you risk everything to meet her? And if you encountered her in a quiet forest at night, what would you ask for? If you do encounter the Yaga, be prepared to answer her questions. Are you running toward the truth at the center of the forest, or are you running away from something that is chasing you?