Today, the temperature is expected to rise to nearly 90 degrees Fahrenheit. As is typical in the Northeast, the heavy stickiness of humidity (heightened by a forecasted thunderstorm) will be its partner. While some people enjoy the tropical conditions, I and others prefer cooler, drier climes: As moving to a new locale is not a practical solution, I have accrued throughout the years an arsenal of techniques to cope with the inevitable sweat and swelter of the next few months.
In addition to placing night- and undergarments in the freezer (along with damp washcloths), I often take an ice pack to bed with me. As a nearby fan blows over the chilly accessories, I do not feel the lack of central air conditioning. Of course, a cool shower also helps: To heighten the effects of the cooling, I may use peppermint body wash, and then apply a light layer of lotion with a few drops of peppermint essential oil. While these tactics are effective, they also have the benefit of creating a spa-like (thus relaxing) effect.
Recently, however, I have had to develop remedies that go below the surface of the skin. Within the past year or so, I officially have become someone whose muscles and joints can predict the weather: Humidity and swift, large temperature changes result in an aching, stiff body. Further, I wanted to create a reflexology and acupressure treatment for an elderly friend whose feet and ankles swell dramatically with humidity. (I now believe that the reason cows lie down before a storm has everything to do with a painful weakening in their joints as the barometric pressure changes.)
Consequently, I have come up with a quick acupressure-based routine to stimulate and enhance our organic ability to regulate body temperature and ease fluid retention. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Bladder, Kidney, Liver, and Triple Heater organ systems govern issues relating to, respectively, bone problems (e.g., osteoarthritis); fluid balance; lymph flow; and muscular and joint pain and stiffness.
Special note: Interestingly, joints and blood vessels contain sensory nerves called baroreceptors that respond to changes in atmospheric pressure. When the barometer falls, the tissues expand, which leads to the swelling and attendant pain that occurs with damp air and temperature changes.
The first step in this short practice is to apply pressure to the outer tip of each eyebrow. To create your “tool,” cross the ring finger of each hand over the pinky, so that it touches the outer edge of the pinky fingernail. (This will trigger a boost in energy assimilation, as directed by the Small Intestine.) Use the pad of the ring fingers to firmly press into the slight depression at the outer points of the brows. Inhale as you press, exhale as you release the pressure: Repeat 3-5 times.
Then, move your hands to the back of the neck. At the base of the skull, on both sides of the spine, you will feel the thick rope of the upper trapezius. Just lateral to the muscles, there will be another dip; use whatever fingers you like to again inhale with the application of pressure, and release as you exhale. Repeat the treatment 3-5 times.
Now, come around to the front body, on the collar bone. Tap or rub the two knobs at the center of the clavicle, just under the throat. Breathe deeply as you continue for about a minute.
Next, make loose fists, and gently pummel your buttocks for another minute or so. Then, with open palms, briskly rub your lower back for 30-60 seconds. Both of these actions stimulate the Bladder and Kidneys to do their fluid-balancing duty.
Now, take your self-healing hands to your feet. On the top of each foot, between the big and second toe, you will feel a “V” shape of the tendons that support the metatarsals: In the deepest part of the V, apply pressure to this Liver point known as the “Great Surge.” Use the same inhale/exhale with pressure/release technique as described previously: Repeat 3-5 times. Additionally, after you have performed the acupressure, stroke firmly (3-5 times) from the web between the big and second toe, to the Great Surge. This movement encourages lymph flow through the entire lower body.
For the final point, you will apply pressure to the Kidney’s “Bubbling Spring”: On the bottom of each foot, between the second and third toes (just below the ball of the foot) lies this starting point of the entire Kidney meridian. Again, inhale as you press, exhale and release, 3-5 times.
Special note: If any of the points that you work feel especially tender, return to treat them throughout the day. Soreness typically indicates that the qi, or energy, is not flowing properly, which will exacerbate any symptoms related to an imbalance in that particular meridian.
To close your treatment routine, lie on your back. Lift your legs and arms to 90 degrees, so that you look like an overturned bug. Breathe deeply in this position for 30-60 seconds, then begin to vigorously shake your limbs for another minute. Then, with legs and arms still aloft and akimbo, inhale and suspend your breath; lightly shake the limbs as you retain the inhale for about 10 seconds. Exhale fully as you cease the movement. Inhale again with limbs in the air, and then exhale deeply as your bring your arms and legs to the ground. Rest in this supine position (svasana) for at least three minutes.
When you have finished this practice, please be sure to drink a full glass (or more) of water. It may seem counterintuitive to add fluid when you may be retaining or feel swollen, but the intake is necessary to support the consistent, balanced distribution of all body fluids.