Discover the Medicine of the Forest
“Every tree, plant, hill, mountain, rock, and each thing that was here before us emanates or vibrates at a subtle that has healing power whether we know it or not. So if something in us must change, spending time in nature provides a good beginning” – Malidoma Somé
As an Integrative Health and Wellness Coach, I talk to many women about their emotional and physical states, which are often (if not always) connected to one another. Situations that I seem to hear time and time again are:
I feel tired and overwhelmed.
I wish I had more time to do the things that I love to do.
There feels like there is just something missing in my life.
Burnout. Stress. Overwhelm. Numbness. This cycle has become all too common in our culture. Demanding work environments, raising a family, being constantly barraged by the notifications from emails, texts, social media – it’s easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed by everyday life. To add more fuel to the fire, we are spending more time indoors, away from the natural environment, than ever before in human history. The average American is spending less than 5% of their day outdoors, which is a dramatic shift from even just a few decades ago. What is all this time indoors, glued to technology, doing to our health and wellbeing? Countless research shows that our highly industrialized environment, full of artificial lights, loud noises, poor indoor air quality, chemicals, and electromagnetic pollution, is harmful to human health and is directly linked to chronic stress and disease.
Chronic stress can dramatically affect a person’s health. The American Psychology Association (APA) shares that “it can make existing health problems worse, and even cause disease, either because of changes in the body or bad habits people develop to cope with stress. The bottom line is that stress can lead to real physical and emotional health consequences”.
Revelatory research conducted over the last 30 years demonstrates a variety of ways that spending time in nature reduces stress and significantly promotes overall health and wellbeing. Through government funding and support, Japan and South Korea have created forest therapy programs that guide individuals to be in nature in a safe, intentional way to promote healing. Here in the United States, such funding and support are more limited but there are a handful of programs that train individuals to guide others to be in the forest in a way that embraces mindfulness and expanded awareness in order to promote the physiological, psychological, and spiritual healing benefits nature provides.
After completing my Master’s Degree in Integrative Health Studies and my six-month training to become a certified Forest Therapy Guide, I am delighted to be offering a four-walk series called “Women’s Wellness Forest Therapy Walks”. By combining the standard sequence of the mindfulness-oriented Forest Therapy walks with the powerful tools of cultivating self-compassion, vulnerability, and resiliency inspired by leaders in the fields of neuroscience and behavior change such as Brené Brown, Kristin Neff, and Kelly McGonigal, I will bring groups of ten women or less into the forests of Sonoma County to learn ways to not only manage stress and practice self-care but to feel more resilient and empowered to handle the fast-paced reality of living in 2018.
Sometimes life throws us curveballs. And like a forest, we as individuals have a web of interconnected pillars of support and strength. Lean into the shadows. Find gold out of the darkness. And breathe in the fresh and vibrantly alive forest of life that surrounds you.
Forest Therapy Walk Schedule:
April 21 – Cultivating Your Intuition
May 5 – Self-Compassion & Self-Care
May 19 – Tapping Into Vulnerability
June 2 – Community Building & Resiliency
Space is limited to 10 self-identified women per walk. The themes and practices of each walk are designed for this to be a cohesive experience from start to finish, but attendees who are unable to commit to the entire series are welcome to join for individual walks as well. There is a 25% discount if you purchase all four walks in advance. Please secure your space by purchasing your ticket here by April 13th. As a patient of Flourish Integrative Health, I invite you to use promo code FLOURISH to receive an exclusive 15% off this offering. With any questions, please email me at email@example.com.
Jenny Harrow, MA has a Master’s Degree in Integrative Health Studies and is certified as an Integrative Health & Wellness Coach, Guided Imagery Practitioner, and Forest Therapy Guide. A Sonoma County native, Jenny is deeply passionate about leading individuals and groups on a journey of self-exploration and healing. In addition to being the Operations Manager at Flourish Integrative Health, she has several nature-oriented offerings through her practice EcoWisdom and is co-founder of the nonprofit Integrative Healers Action Network, which emerged from the recent Sonoma County wildfires and aims to bring integrative healing services to emergency response situations.
Tools to Release Trauma
Three weeks have passed since the fires started. During this time, our community has experienced the full range of human emotion. Some of us were evacuated. Some of us lost our homes. As a community, we have experienced both individual and collective trauma. Here at Flourish Integrative Health, we would like to share the tools and resources we have from not only our respective medical educations and training but also what we are implementing for ourselves as we move into this next stage of recovery and healing.
5 Steps to Release Trauma
“The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud”
- Shake your body and sigh.
- 4/7/8 breath from Dr. Andrew Weil, leader in Integrative Medicine. Click here to view the health benefits and demonstration.
- Release Technique as taught in “Love Yourself and Let the Other Person have it your way”. Click here for a demonstration.
- Acupuncture: We have a few protocols that are helpful post-trauma. Expect 3-6 sessions to start. Click here to schedule an appointment or a complimentary 15-minute consult.
- Medical Qigong: Deeper support during this transition. Do you feel shaken from this experience whether or not you lost your home? Are you experiencing a sense of feeling lost or unable to find yourself, or wanting a new direction and just not sure how to find it? Expect to start with 3 sessions. Click here to schedule an appointment or a complimentary 15-minute consult.
Dr. Jen Riegle, ND, is offering B12 and B5 shots for fire recovery
- Increased Energy
- Elevated Mood
- Increased Cognitive Function and Memory
- Supports Adrenal Function
- Support Immune System
These shots are $20 each or pay what you can during these times. Available to everyone.
Community is an integral piece to healing trauma and wounds. If you ever want someone to talk to, to share a cup of tea, or spend time in community, please always feel free to reach out. We are all in this together.
Nurturing the Garden: How Chinese Medicine Can Support Fertility, Pregnancy and Beyond
By Vladi Starkov LAc, DMQ
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda have longstanding traditions of supporting women in all stages of motherhood: pre-conception care, every phase of pregnancy, and post-partum care. I’d like to share some insights from my clinical practice as well as some time-tested wisdom, to explain how these ancient modalities can supplement and enhance the care provided by an MD or a Licensed Midwife.
Preparing the Garden: Pre-Conception Care
Having worked in the field of fertility for over 6 years, I’ve seen hundreds of couples go through this journey. Some already had exhausted trying naturally and were considering or already in the midst of receiving care from ART (Artificial Reproductive Technologies, such as IVF). While most couples don’t think about getting care until they’ve already been trying, the period of 3-6 months before attempting to get pregnant provides an opportunity to greatly strengthen the odds. That time frame allows the mother to prepare the soil, just like you would tend to a garden bed. Much like you would uproot old weeds growing in a garden, we seek to remove that which might prevent life from coming in: fibroids, cysts, hormone imbalances, endometriosis, PCOS, infections, and anovulation are some of the physical symptoms that can be healed.
To improve the odds of a healthy and successful pregnancy, it’s also essential to look at what’s happening emotionally and energetically: TCM sees the uterus as the second heart, where unresolved emotions and grievances go for long-term storage and can impede pregnancy. This can include unresolved old trauma, previous abortions and miscarriages. The process of clearing out the uterus, or what TCM calls the “Baby Palace” is highly personalized. Depending on a client’s needs, it may include a cleanse, herbs, Medical Qigong (TCM’s energetic system), massage, and acupuncture. However, sometimes we do not have the luxury of spending these months in preparation for conception, so some of these techniques may be used alongside trying naturally or ART methods. It’s important to meet the patient exactly where she is and work with her timeline.
Cultivating the Garden: Support During Pregnancy
TCM and Ayurveda provide specific guidelines for each stage of pregnancy, indicating what herbs and foods to consume or avoid. While I customize this for each patient depending on her constitution as well as what symptoms she might be having, one example is breast-milk composition, baby’s perfect food: it is composed of more fat, then protein, then sugar. This means that it is important to consume foods rich in fat and protein during pregnancy and go with less sugar. This also helps to curb nausea, stabilize blood sugar levels, and prevent pregnancy-diabetes and weight gain.
TCM can be helpful throughout the pregnancy, addressing symptoms like morning sickness and fatigue, hemorrhoids, growing pains, low back pain and high blood pressure. A specific acupuncture point will help turn a breech baby, and others help prepare the body for labor and shorten labor time. This wise and knowledgeable medicine supports the body to heal and create optimal conditions for a growing fetus.
Postpartum Care: Restoring Balance
The first 12 months after childbirth may bring an even more challenging time than pregnancy itself, as the new mom shifts from the experience of pregnancy to the highs of oxytocin bonding with the baby and breastfeeding, as well as the lows of not enough sleep and hormones crashing. This is an especially important time to support the mom with simple self-care practices, acupuncture and herbs. I highly recommend that new moms get 3 weekly treatments, starting at 2 weeks after birth, to improve recovery and bring back energy. Then, monthly treatments for a full year ensure that mama will make time for herself. While sometimes a challenge for new mommies to juggle how to come in after baby arrives, it’s incredibly beneficial: we address issues such as breastfeeding problems, baby blues, balancing self-care, scars from a C-section, recovery from any tearing, issues with hemorrhoids, sexual vitality, fatigue and much more.
As you can see, TCM contains numerous treasures for supporting mamas. Rather than attempting to become an expert yourself while going through the powerful journey of becoming a mother, get in touch with me or find another experienced practitioner who can support you every step of the way. Give yourself the gift of being nurtured as you become a healthy and happy mama!
Vladi Starkov is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Herbalist, and natural health practitioner in Sonoma County who comes from a lineage of women healers in Bulgaria. She holds extensive training in the areas of pain, women’s health, fertility, Ayurveda and psycho-spiritual emotional balance. To learn more about how Flourish Integrative Health can assist you in your journey with IVF and fertility, visit www.flourishintegrativehealth.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 707-205-1224.
Open House Celebration! Thursday, October 20th: 5:00pm to 7:00pm
We are delighted to celebrate our new office space with an open house celebration!
~ Meet the new members of our holistic team: Vladi Starkov, Jen Riegle and Rose Deni specializing in women’s health.
~ Taste local wines poured by the winemaker of Gregory James Wines. Enjoy small, seasonally inspired bites.
~ Win great prizes of services and items donated by our wonderful community in an interactive raffle (proceeds will be donated to The Living Room). Prizes include 1-hour luxurious Massages, Acupuncture Treatments, Chiropractic, and wine!
~ Learn more about the current and future offerings at Flourish Integrative Health. We hope that you can join us in blessing our beautiful new space!
RSVP at email@example.com
Join Our 21 Day Fall Cleanse: October 10th – 31st
Fall is a time of transition and the perfect time to purify your body and mind. Experience the benefits of helping your body cleanse with the 21-day Standard Process Purification Program.
This is a semi-structured program that combines eating whole food, drinking nutritious shakes, taking supplements made with whole food ingredients, and light exercise. As included in the program you will also receive 1-Detox Specific Acupuncture Treatment, and 3 weekly Informational Group Calls with Vladi Starkov LAc.
21-Day Cleanse Program Includes:
- The Standard Process Purification Kit, which includes access to a wonderful app and cookbook to help you along your journey
- One Detox specific acupuncture session with Vladi
- 3 Weekly Informational Online Calls with Vladi! You can attend the discussions in real time or download at your convenience
Discussion #1: Layout of the Program
Why a cleanse is important
How the program works
How to use the app
Discussion #2: Emotional Cleansing
Deeper levels of emotional cleansing
Discussion #3: Wrap-Up & Integration
What to do after you purify
Continuing with a healthy lifestyle moving forward
Post-cleanse, patients anecdotally report:
- Increased weight management
- Increased energy & vitality
- Increased fertility
- Better digestion
- Clearer skin
- Shinier hair
- Better sleep
- Clearer thinking
- Better management of challenges related to natural toxin load in the body
Early Bird (sign-up by 9/30!): $395
Sign-up by 10/5: $450
The Program is Valued at: $545
How Acupuncture Can Heal Mind, Body, and Spirit After Trauma
By Jenny Harrow
As a devoted patient of Vladi Starkov, I felt compelled to share how I came to work with her and how the experience changed me on every level: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
My journey with Vladi Starkov at Flourish Integrative Health began a little over a year and a half ago and it altered my life direction towards my greater purpose. It all began when a scooter I was driving in Austin, Texas malfunctioned: the throttle was stuck in gear, and I was taken across four lanes of downtown traffic before being thrown thirty feet into a creek bed. Upon impact, I severely lacerated both of my knees, fractured my vertebrae, shoulder and ribs, punctured my lung, and experienced a concussion.
Luckily, I was found by a gracious soul who ran down to the creek and saved me from drowning in the 5 x 5 foot puddle in which I landed face down. I was rushed to the nearest hospital. The care I received, from the surgeries to the pharmaceutical drugs, saved my life and I am forever grateful for the miracles performed in the hospital. Yet, despite the necessity and efficacy of the care, the two weeks I spent in the medical hospital were incredibly confusing and downright scary. I had no memory of the accident whatsoever, so waking up in the hospital was a complete surprise to me. I was shuffled around from the ICU to the surgery floor several times within the first week and the doctors would only come to speak to me for less than five minutes at a time. The drugs and the trauma made my brain so blurry that understanding anything in general was difficult for me. The nurses and physical therapists were the most friendly to me, yet everything was so hectic and busy that no one in the hospital treated me like anything more than a body with injuries.
My first visit to Vladi’s office was dramatically different than my experience in the hospital. As soon as I met her, I felt safe. When I told her my story, she really listened with empathy and concern. As I settled onto the acupuncture table, peaceful sounds of Tibetan bells and chants emanated in the background. After she inserted the needles into different points around my knees, right shoulder and ribs, Vladi instructed me to breathe deeply and to silently send the injured parts of my body healing thoughts and energy. I remember very clearly those first few sessions, as I laid in the dark, unable to move and still so confused as to how this had all happened, learning how to send my broken bones love. Breathing deeply was difficult for me because of my punctured right lung and fractured ribs, but my breath began to strengthen when I brought concentration to it.
It was on Vladi’s acupuncture table that for the first time since my accident, I felt connected to my body, my mind, and the essence of my being. During those first two months of my recovery, I had a huge team of medical practitioners, from physical therapists to orthopedic surgeons. Every member of my team contributed to my physical healing a great deal, yet it was during the time with Vladi that not only did I feel the most safe, but it was also when I was able to heal my fractured soul. Traumatic events can change everything in a person’s life, from their physical capabilities to understanding their greater purpose on this planet. When treated delicately and with care, the time period after a trauma is an opportunity to retrieve any parts that feel disconnected. It is also an opportunity to open to a deeper connection to self and trusting your inner compass for guidance.
My body healed quickly and beautifully; I was able to enjoy some of my favorite activities, such as hiking and yoga, within four months of my accident. My soul took a bit longer to heal, however: after so many aspects of my life and identity changed so suddenly, it was on the acupuncture table and with Vladi’s guidance that I discovered my deeper purpose. Vladi helped me see that this traumatic injury was also an opportunity to grow, to become more of the person I wanted to be, and she was an incredible guide and mentor throughout this process. With Vladi’s support, I was able to explore the deepest corners of my soul and open up the gifts I am here to share.
At this point, a little over a year and a half has passed since I first stepped into Vladi’s office. Throughout this time, I have completely overhauled my life as I knew it! I quit my job of five years, I moved, I completed the first year of a graduate program, and I feel more connected to my purpose than I ever have before. I still receive acupuncture from Vladi, but only once or twice a month to address any lingering aches and pains from my accident, or to receive balancing and energetic treatments to help me handle the trials and tribulations of graduate school.
Sometimes we fall so that we can wake up with a deeper awareness of joy, love and gratitude. My fall in Austin shook me to my core, and with the help and guidance from amazing individuals such as Vladi Starkov at Flourish Integrative Health, I am happier and feel more whole and alive than I ever have been before. Today is a gift!
Jenny Harrow is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Integrative Health Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and is interning with Flourish Integrative Health. To learn more about how Flourish Integrative Health can assist you with your journey after trauma, guidance during life transitions, and pain management, visit: www.flourishintegrativehealth.com