Thursday, August 10, 2017

You’ve Heard of Tai Chi, but What About Qigong?

By Richard Lund, M.S.
Integrative Health Associate

For those of you that haven’t heard of Qigong, or not sure of what it is, I’ve seen a growing awareness and interest in Qigong, as well as Tai Chi. But what is Qigong? And how is it different from Tai Chi?

Let me first start with the definition of Qigong. Qi is the Chinese word for energy, and Gong refers to knowledge or skills developed through consistent practice and experience over time. Therefore, Qigong literally means training or working with your vital energy. Its purpose is to gather energy, circulate it smoothly and continuously throughout your body, and nurture it to promote health and improve your quality of life.

Qigong, like acupuncture, is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which teaches that the best way to promote health and healing is to balance and circulate your energy smoothly and continuously, like your blood flow before physical symptoms develop, and thus preventing illness and injury. This is done by calming your mind, relaxing your body, and breathing slowly and deeply. Qigong exercises can be done sitting, standing, or lying down, remaining still as in meditation, or while moving, more like Tai Chi as seen in parks and peaceful natural settings.

There are several main categories of Qigong:
  • Medical Qigong, which improves functioning of our internal organs 
  • Qigong for health 
  • Spiritual or contemplative Qigong, which is more like meditation 
Tai Chi is the martial art form of Qigong. Both having the same principles, but is practiced more for health. Both Qigong and Tai Chi are excellent forms of meditation.

Most often Qigong involves practicing a single movement repeated over and over again before moving to another movement, while calming the mind through awareness on posture and relaxing your breathing. This allows your energy to circulate smoothly and evenly throughout your body.

Tai Chi is practiced as a series of movements linked together, like a dance sequence, following one after another with no breaks in between, done slowly and evenly. Both Tai Chi and Qigong are often called moving meditation, whereas Qigong is a set of simple, repetitive movements that are much easier to learn than the Tai Chi form while also developing correct posture, stability, balance, and whole body coordination. Both promote relaxation and well-being and manage stress. These benefits eventually spread into all of our activities of daily living. Most Tai Chi classes begin with practicing Qigong like warm up exercises. Furthermore, one can first learn Qigong to develop a solid foundation for good Tai Chi.

To learn more or attend a class, please call 732-324-5257.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How to Start a Vegetable Garden…It’s Not Too Late

By Paula O’Neill, M.S., RN-BC
Clinical Program Manager

Just imagine. You decide you would like a salad for lunch. You walk out to your back yard or terrace and pick a ripe, juicy tomato off the vine. Next, you select tender, succulent lettuce leaves and crisp red radishes. Delicious! There is nothing like the taste of fresh picked vegetables. And this is just one of the many benefits of having your own garden. Other benefits include:

1.     Exercise. When you are weeding, digging and planting you are also stretching, bending, and moving...all forms of exercise. 
2.     Stress relief. Studies have shown that gardening can help lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and improve mood.
3.     Connection to nature. Putting your hands in the dirt and working with the earth, nurturing life through the growth of plants, herbs, and spices has been reported by some to be a spiritual experience.
4.     Improved health. Growing your own vegetables provides you with fresh, nutrient-dense food. And an extra benefit is helping to reduce your grocery bill.

It’s not too late to start your own garden. All you need is a small area in your yard or a few containers. Choose a location that gets a lot of full sun and has good drainage. Vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. If you are planting in containers, make sure that the bottom has drainage holes. Next, select your soil. If you are a beginner you may want to start by purchasing commercial soil made specifically for growing vegetables. Now you’re ready to plant. Make sure you space your crops properly. You can follow the directions on the plant tab or seed packet. Lettuce, radishes, kale, Swiss chard and broccoli are some examples of vegetables that can be planted in August. At this time of year, it’s best to plant seedlings.

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” - Alfred Austin

If you would like more information about gardening, including how to start your own garden or maintain your current garden, join us and our Master Gardener at The Learning Garden at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center - Perth Amboy every Thursday, weather permitting, from 12 pm- 1 pm. Call 732.324.5257 for more information and to let us know you’re stopping by.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Introduction to Reiki

By Sharon Yeskel
Integrative Health Provider

Did your kids ever play with Hasbro’s Playskool Weebles? You know, those little egg-shaped figures with the wide base and narrow tops that tip back and forth when given a gentle push? The advertising slogan was, “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.” The weighted bottom balances the toy and eventually brings it to a stop.

Most of us are stressed. We are bouncing around through life only we don’t have a built-in mechanism that stops us from toppling over. We are bombarded by technology, obsessed with social media, overwhelmed by work and our to-do lists. And those stressors affect our health. Insomnia, headaches, hives, IBS, high blood pressure, anxiety and chronic pain are just some of the conditions that can be caused by or exacerbated by stress.

So what can we do for ourselves to achieve a sense of balance and reduce stress? There are many practices that can help. Some are passive practices like massage and acupuncture where you go to someone for a treatment. Others require participation like meditation practices, guided imagery, breath work, yoga, and Tai Chi. One practice that is both passive and participatory is Reiki. You can receive a Reiki treatment from a practitioner or learn to practice on yourself.

Reiki (pronounced RAY-KEY) is a Japanese energy healing technique that can be administered by light touch (or hands above the body) to a fully clothed recipient. There are no medical contraindications or any religious belief attached to the practice. Reiki is safe and supports any medical treatment. There is strong anecdotal evidence that Reiki treatments help people feel calmer, more relaxed, and have less pain. It is also a spiritual practice. Practicing self-Reiki, as well as the contemplation techniques taught in the class, teaches students to calm themselves and let go of anger and worry, bringing balance to mind, body and spirit. When we take the time to care for ourselves, we are more available to care for others.

For the past seven years, I have been providing Reiki treatments to patients and team members at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center - Old Bridge and Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center - Perth Amboy. Even 15 minutes of Reiki can be beneficial. Recipients enjoy the warmth of Reiki touch and find treatments soothing and comforting. Benefits can be experienced in one session, but Reiki treatments have a cumulative effect, so additional benefits are noticed over time. For example, one patient who I treated every other week, reported that after four visits, she was sleeping better, was better able to cope with daily stressors and was using less pain medication.

Anyone can learn to practice Reiki for personal care, to help friends and family and even pets. Reiki classes and private sessions for outpatients are available in both Old Bridge and Perth Amboy locations throughout the year.

Sharon Yeskel is an Integrative Health Provider at Raritan Bay Perth Amboy and Raritan Bay Old Bridge. Since 2004, the program’s qualified and credentialed practitioners have provided integrative therapies to enhance patients’ health and well-being, both at the hospital and on an outpatient basis, with complementary medicine supporting the mind-body-spirit connection. Scheduled classes and private sessions are provided for a fee. Call 732-324-5257 for an appointment.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Making the Most of Your Farmers Market Trip

It’s summer in New Jersey – banner planes are flying over the beach, pools are filled with the sounds of happy children and local farmers markets are in full swing. While shopping at your local farmers market is a great way to find fresh, local produce for you and your family, it can be a confusing experience. Here are some shopping tips and tidbits to help you get informed before you buy.

What does organic mean?

Many local farms boast that their food is organic. In the U.S. that means the crops were grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage-based fertilizers.

“Livestock can be organic too,” says Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN-BC, Integrative Nurse Practitioner with Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine. “That means any livestock raised for meat, eggs and dairy products must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They also may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones or any animal by-products.”

What’s the benefit of buying organic?

Organic produce has fewer pesticides and is often fresher because it doesn’t contain the preservatives that allow it to last longer. Also, organic farming tends to be better for the environment.

What to buy?

While buying fresh, organic fruits and vegetables are always a healthy choice, you might be surprised at the other healthy options often available at your farmers market:

Raw Honey 

Raw honey contains many benefits. It’s free from additives and can be used as a natural cough syrup.

“Local honey can also help if you suffer from allergies by making you less sensitive to your local pollen and easing your symptoms,” says Stafford.

Lastly, raw honey is a prebiotic, helping increase the levels of good bacteria in your digestive tract.


Juicing helps you absorb all the nutrients in vegetables and can help hide the taste of some less desirable vegetables, exposing your family to a wider variety of produce.

Hackensack Meridian Health’s Farmers Markets
Hackensack Meridian Health is sponsoring farmers markets throughout New Jersey this season. Find the farmers market near you and check out our healthy recipes:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Got Stress?

By Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN-BC
Nurse Practitioner

Got stress? We all do. The real question is, how well do you handle your stress?

Did you know that 60-90% of visits to primary care doctors are for stress-related conditions?

Research has shown that the safest and most effective way to reduce stress is through mind-body medicine. The field of mind-body medicine is based on the recognition that our beliefs, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and relationships can have a profound effect on the body.

Stress management can help you to either remove or change the source of stress, alter the way you view a stressful event, lower the impact that stress might have on your body, and teach you alternative ways of coping. Using the relaxation response turns off genes associated with stress and disease vulnerability.

Coming in 2018, Integrative Health and Medicine will be presenting the SMART program:

The Stress Management And Resiliency Training (SMART) program teaches self-care practices that help buffer daily stress, making you less vulnerable to it. You will learn to regain control and build resiliency through a variety of mind-body principles and self-care interventions.

Stress management is helpful to everyone and will especially benefit those with:
  • Anxiety-related symptoms 
  • Insomnia or fatigue 
  • Headaches or migraines 
  • Gastrointestinal disorders 
  • Mild depression 
  • Skin problems 
  • Auto-Immune disorders 
  • Asthma and allergies 
  • Chronic pain or TMJ 
The program will help participants:
  • Understand the connection between stress and physical/emotional problems
  • Learn a variety of techniques to elicit the relaxation response
  • Appreciate the role of positive thoughts and beliefs
  • Discover the importance of healthy eating, restorative sleep, and physical activity
The SMART program includes four individual appointments, which are reimbursed by most insurers, and eight weekly two-hour group sessions, which are self-pay.

For optimal health, just like brushing and flossing, stress management needs to be a daily practice. Having multiple tools and techniques will change how you handle your stress and ultimately change your life!

Join Lisa Sussman, PsyD, Health Psychologist and Emma Stafford, Nurse Practitioner at Hackensack Meridian Health Village for this comprehensive training from the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital. For their complete bios, click here.

For more information and to make a mind-body consultation appointment, call Hackensack Meridian Health Integrative Health & Medicine at 732-994-7855.