Life Acupuncture Bodywork has been recognized as one of the top Toronto Acupuncture practices. Verified by

Germinating Seeds

This week I have woken up to the sound of a Robin singing. It has given me the distinct sensation that Spring is around the corner. Although our weather may not speak the language of Spring just yet, the warmth that is coming from the sun tells us that it is indeed moving closer to us.

My first instinct when that sensation of Spring washes over me is to start preparing my garden. Gardening is something that I have done on some level every year since I left my childhood home, though growing plants indoors is not my greatest strength I seem to be able to do it outside. Maybe that is because watering the garden is a daily ritual, so it is easy to form a daily habit of doing so. I’m happy to say that my habits have inspired several of my friends, colleagues and clients to do the same. It has also drawn me towards new friends with similar interests.

In the Five Element system of Acupuncture and East Asian Medicine, the phase that we are currently in is the transitional phase during the change of seasons. During this time, it is said that the Earth energy, or Spleen energy is the most active. It is considered an auspicious time to pay attention to our health, and to take extra time to nurture ourselves. Winter which is the element of water and the kidneys is a dormant season, and many people slow down and become less active. This is a natural process, as it follows what is happening in nature. Springtime is the element of wood and the liver. This is the time when we start to see the little sprouts of life appearing, and when the energy of rejuvenation and growth is the strongest. It is quite natural to feel more energized in the Springtime, as the sun moves closer to the earth, and its energy powers growth and movement.

This time of the year, when all is in a state of relative balance with nature, my nurturing instincts are activated, and I begin to think about how to prepare my garden for the upcoming year. I set my gardening goals based on what my plans are for the season, and who I will be feeding. This has a big impact on how I will set up my garden, as it does take a good deal of time and planning. I try to only plant what I can tend and sow so that these wonderful treasures are not wasted.

For me, gardening has always been an expression of love to my family and friends. My mother was a feeder, cooking and baking was her biggest outlet for showing affection. I think I have expanded my horizons in terms of showing love, but I learned from her how much better food tastes when it is made with love and grown locally. As it turns out, the legacy continues as my son progresses through his training in a farm to table program in culinary school.

Food is a form of medicine if it is treated this way. Understanding the energetic properties of food through the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, I understand that the foods which grow during a particular season are generally good food to nurture the element that is active at that time. So, I look forward to picking some sprouted greens to garnish my hearty stews for the next month and then will move on to steaming the greens in the Spring which will help to clean the Liver. Young dandelion sprouts are a wonderful tonic for the liver, its amazing that they are the best in the early spring!!

If you are curious about more dietary theory based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, I recommend the book Healing with Whole Foods, by Paul Pitchford. It can be a great guide to how to use what we must do every day (eat) to help improve our health.

In the meantime, I nurture and grow my acupuncture practice, as I become more settled in my new home of Pickering, Ontario.

Best wishes,


Benefits of Cupping Practitioners

As a practitioner of multiple modalities of East Asian Medicine, including bodywork and acupuncture, many people ask me about cupping. Why would I want to have cupping? What is it beneficial for?

Often when I describe the many benefits of cupping therapy, people cannot even believe that it could help so many different ailments. It seems too good to be true!!

Well, its not… It’s really THAT good. But cupping therapy is not for everyone, and here’s why.
The main function of cupping therapy is that it creates negative pressure on the superficial tissues of the body. This means, that the suction effect of cupping draws blood and body fluids from inside of the body toward the surface. Depending on the depth of the cup, it can draw from as deep as 6 cm into the body. This is not a depth of suction that is often indicated, or safe, but this demonstrates the power of cupping therapy.

Benefits of cupping


So, how does drawing blood and body fluids benefit the body, you ask? Our blood supplies nutrients, oxygen, nutrients, and takes away waste products. It also delivers immune cells to fight infections, and platelets to stop bleeding. So, any time there is injury, infection, or inflammation in an area of the body, having a fresh rich blood supply is going to be beneficial. In reality, having a rich, fresh blood supply to most parts of the body, most of the time is beneficial.

Just ask Michael Phelps!! There is no better testimonial than having the most celebrated Olympic athlete in history seek cupping therapy to enhance his performance in the pool. It’s hard to imagine he would have risked his career comeback for a treatment that he wasn’t certain would help him!!



Cupping is currently the most IN DEMAND health modality. Even before the 2016 Olympics there was a huge surge in the popularity of cupping therapy, which is attributed largely to the availability and ease of use of modern cupping vessels. Cupping is a super easy modality to practice, but to practice it with expert skill, and to fully understand the indications, cautions, and contraindications of cupping therapy (any powerful modality will have risks involved) it is highly advisable to take a well researched and respected training. Like any modality, there are many levels of skill that can be achieved, and many approaches to practice.

Cupping for Manual Therapists was developed by Lisa Dowling, who is a practitioner of both Eastern and Western modalities. She has incorporated her knowledge of Eastern Medicine to explain when and why to use each of the many cupping methods on what kind of condition, and which clients need certain techniques. Her understanding of anatomy, physiology, and dynamic movement is adapted to this course to enable you to move the body with the cups, as well as move the cups on the body.

Cupping for Manual Therapists is a dense, material packed 2 day training that could be stretched into 4 days of teaching. We understand that practitioners need to get back into the treatment room, so instead of keeping you in the classroom for four days, we have created a private Facebook page where graduates of the 2 day training gather and share ideas, ask questions, and review the training. Videos of all of the techniques are available on this page for graduates to access once they have completed the training.
The intention of this training system is to support practitioners, develop knowledge and skills, and provide insight into the mysterious chasm that lays between Eastern and Western Medicine. They are not so different, but the thought process definitely shifts the approach to the materials.

Cupping Therapy

glass cups

There has been a lot of talk about cupping since the onset of the 2016 Olympics in Rio.  The Olympic superstar, Michael Phelps, made his arrival poolside with large curious circles all over his shoulders and back.  The media jumped on this opportunity for publicity and their first reaction was to say that this ancient technique has not been scientifically proven.  We will not get into the science of evidence based medicine, but the Chinese have been recording results of this mysterious medicine for over 2000 years. One must not discount that which has stood the test of time.

After 5 gold, and one silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, one can safely say that cupping certainly did not hurt the 31 year old superstar. We could be optimistic and say that Phelps performance at the 2016 Olympics was improved with cupping.


There are a few variations of cupping, but the traditional form of fire cupping that we saw evidence on Phelps back, has been around for over 2000 years. Cupping is a technique that has been used in several ancient cultures including Asia, and the Middle East. Actually, it is uncertain exactly how long cupping has been around because the original instruments used for cupping were biodegradable.  It is believed that the original form of cupping was done with bamboo.

Today practitioners use glass or silicone cups to create suction on the body.  With the glass cups, suction is created by placing a heat source (fire) under the cup before applying it to the body. Silicone cups have a pump to remove the air from the inside of the cup.  Stationary cups are applied to specific acupuncture points, which are used for muscle or tendon strain.  These points usually coincide with the muscle belly or tendinous attachments of injured muscles.  The acupuncture points that are chosen are usually powerful points for moving Qi and Blood, and promote circulation in the body.  The cups are retained for up to 20 minutes.

Other styles of cupping include flash cupping, and sliding cupping. In flash cupping, the cups are quickly applied and removed over a variety of locations on the body.  During sliding cupping, a sliding agent (oil or linament) is used on the skin, and the cups glide along the meridian lines. The cups have less tension in this method.  More recently cupping has also been adapted in cosmetic treatments.

cupping therapy



Now that you know the procedure, we can discuss the application of cupping.

  1. CIRCULATION: Through the action of suction, cupping is drawing blood toward the surface of the body. The lymphatic system is the system that cleans the blood, and is located close to the surface of the skin.  Cupping can help to flush the lymphatic system, which is why it is effective for detoxification;  therefore, cupping is often used for patients with a cold or immune system illnesses.  The cups are breaking small capillaries during the act of suction, increasing blood circulation to the local area, and sometimes leaving dark marks.  Any area that has more blood circulation will naturally function better.
  2. MUSCULO/TENDINOUS ISSUES: In order to function correctly, a muscle must have a healthy stretch reflex, and be able to contract and relax freely. Through the simple act of suction, the cups are helping to encourage the stretch reflex of the muscles.  When the body builds muscle, it creates micro tears in the muscles, and if it is too extreme it will cause inflammation and increased tearing in the muscle.  The body is equipped to deal with micro tears, but when this phenomenon recurs too frequently the muscle cannot manage the inflammatory response.  The muscle becomes stiff and sticky from the chronic inflammation, and heat created from the injury.  By drawing blood and lymph to the area, the body can clean up the area and get on with the healing process.  During a muscle injury, the body creates an inflammatory response and ‘shunts’ the area, thereby cutting off the blood supply.  This is an important part of the healing process for the first 24-36 hours, but with repeated injury this shunting can continue and actually restrict proper circulation to the area.
  3. SCAR TISSUE: When the body builds muscle/tears muscle, the new tissue that forms is collagen fiber. This collagen has less stretch than regular muscle fiber, and when it forms, the fibers can be uneven.  With a buildup of scar tissue, the muscle does not contract and relax as effectively. Using cupping technique on scar tissue can help to even out the collagen fibers as well as increase blood circulation to the area, thereby improving muscle function.
  4. FASCIA: Fascia is a web of connective tissue that encapsulates the entire body.  Different areas of the body are enveloped by different fascial chains, and when the body goes out of alignment, the fascia of that area can be affected.  Cupping therapy helps to release congested areas of fascia, thereby allowing the body to return to balance.



It is very likely that cupping would be a helpful therapy for you.  Most often, cupping is used to release muscular tension on the body, and  immune related conditions.  Cupping is an incredible form of therapy, but there are some cautions that we need to consider.  Generally speaking, we tend to avoid doing cupping on pregnant women, as well as people who have bleeding disorders.  Cupping can cause a strong reaction in persons who have a weaker system, have a chronic illness, or very low blood pressure.  It is usually best to receive cupping from a qualified health professional. A practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture,  or a practitioner who has done a thorough training in the modality, and really understands the risks and benefits of cupping would be recommended.



Lisa Dowling first studied cupping in 2000, and later completed her studies in Acupuncture in 2007.  She is a Registered Acupuncturist with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Association of Ontario.  Lisa teaches and supervises the student acupuncture clinic at the Shiatsu School of Canada, as well as teaches her own continuing education classes in Toronto and abroad.

If you would like more information, or would like to set up a free 15 minute consultation, either by phone or in person please contact Lisa Dowling at Life Acupuncture Bodywork       416-986-3429


Survival Tips for the Holidays...

First of all, I would like to wish everyone a safe and peaceful holiday season.

This time of the year is busy, and can be very stressful for many people for a variety of reasons.  Let us always try to remember to be kind to our fellow friends and neighbours.  Many people are not celebrating Christmas, and for them it must be difficult to see all of the festivities around them.  Some are religiously not participating, and others it is because they are on their own.  Families may be far away, or they are required to work through the holidays. Then of course there are the cases of those who cannot afford to participate in Holiday festivities. There are many reasons this can happen.  In any case, remember to be empathetic to others – and in this case it may mean being an active listener and allowing people to share their story.  For some who are celebrating Christmas with their family, it can also be extremely stressful.  not everyone has the perfect family.  Whatever the case, try to remember that everybody has a story.

For those who are in the celebrating spirit, there tends to be a shift towards overconsumption.  This includes food, drink, and also objects.  A good way to manage consumption is to ask yourself “do I need this?”  before partaking.  This could keep you from that one last drink that takes you over the edge, the last serving of turkey before the dessert, or the last purchase that fits on the credit card.  Overconsumption doesn’t benefit anyone… it feels good sometimes but the after affects are not positive!!

If you are in the spirit of partaking this season, here are a couple of tips to help the body assimilate:

  1. If you are drinking heavily, don’t forget the water!!  If you drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink, you will probably be fine in the morning.  That headache you feel is dehydration.  It doesn’t matter if it is sparkling water, or regular tap water.  As long as you hydrate, you should minimize the effects of dehydration.
  2. And of course the obvious… DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!!!  There are so many R.I.D.E programs out there at this time of the year.  You might think that you are fine, but those are some famous last words.  Some of the most famous!    And I think the absolute worst case scenario is that you get involved in an accident and someone else gets hurt or even worse… please don’t become a statistic!!
  3. Turkey gut – if you have a belly full of turkey, and you can’t keep your eyes open.  That’s tryptophan. You can drink a glass of coconut water and add sea salt for electrolytes to help the digestive process.  Another helpful tip is to drink a smoothie with greens, and ginger.  The greens help break down the meat and the ginger soothes the digestive tract.  Digestive enzymes can also help the overall feeling we get in our tummy when we are eating too much.
  4. If you are finding you are suffering from an overall feeling of malaise, bloatedness, tired, and wary there are two easy ways to manage it.  First, try lemon water in the morning.  First thing, drink a cup of room temperature water with just a few drops of fresh lemon juice in it.  Wait 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything.  This will flush toxins from the gallbladder and kick start the metabolism.  NOTE:  if you have had your gallbladder removed, or been diagnosed with gallstones you may want to consult your physician.  Secondly, probiotics are a good thing.  If you start taking probiotics it will help your gut produce more good bacteria, and aid your digestive process.  I personally like Bio-K, it is in a liquid form and has been tested extensively in labs.  Again, if you have a chronic or degenerative condition always contact your primary care provider.

If you are suffering from the Holidays Blues, and are feeling isolated or alone during this season you are not alone.  There are so many people who are alone for the Holidays.  The best thing to do is to reach out and find others with a similar situation.  There are things you can do when you are alone for Christmas.  Here are some ideas

  1. Volunteer at a shelter to help those in need.  There are so many people who are not only alone, but in poverty as well.  Many churches and charities are involved in offering a holiday meal or care packages to those less fortunate at this time of the year.  This is an amazing distraction, and helps to put things in perspective as well. Convenant House and Meals on Wheels are examples, there are many more.
  2. Do something nice for yourself.  That’s right, have a nice herbal bath, give yourself a pedicure, or whatever it is that will give you a lift at this time. Making a nice meal, or doing some baking might be enjoyable.
  3. Keep the traditions going.  If you had regular holiday traditions in the past, hold them up – whether it was a special activity or a special dish that was meaningful to you at this time of the year.  If the day was never special to you, then carry on like any other day.
  4. Do something!!  Fresh air is an amazing cure for sadness, so is the sound of laughter.  Go for a walk to a park where there will be children playing, dogs running, and allow their energy to penetrate you.
  5. Don’t be afraid to feel what you feel.  If you want to have a good cry, go ahead.  It is ok to let your feelings out.  This is a very emotional time of the year for a lot of people, and it is positive to acknowledge these feelings.  It is also a good time to address them and try to see the root of these feelings and try to resolve them so that you are not sitting in the same place next year.
  6. Gratitude.  Everyone has something to be thankful for.  Sometimes it may not feel like it, but just the fact that you are reading this says that you do.  It can be the smallest thing, but always remember there are many people who are suffering in ways we cannot even fathom.
  7. Always remember we are not alone.  Life can be lonely and isolating at times, but the truth is that all we have to do is reach out and seek the companionship of another and it will be there.  So many services are available – from support groups to meet up groups… the choice is always yours.

Gratitude and shifting consciousness

gratitudeFirst of all, I would like to express my gratitude to all of those individuals who have supported my journey through this incredible process of raising my own awareness and shifting consciousness to where I am today.  Of course, there is so much work still to be done… there always will be.  But I do try to stay on course and contribute to the improvement of the human experience to the best of my ability.

This year, my own personal life lessons have been around gratitude and empathy.  The most important shift happened during a journey workshop which I began attending in January 2015.  At first I found the marketing for this work off-putting, and wondered if the work was this powerful did it really need such hard advertising.  My doubts were lifted when on the first day of the workshop I felt a transformation within myself.  Suddenly my feelings were given permission and the space to come to the surface.  In the past, my true feelings were suppressed with shame and anger.  This was a life changing realization. I was given permission (by myself) to address my deeper feelings, no matter what they were.  I was learning self-empathy.

The value of this lesson has been exponential. The walls of protection I had built around myself came from a difficult childhood; being lied to created self doubt, growing up in a dictatorship left no space for negotiation, communication, or reconciliation.  I was part of the greater family unit that has been dysfunctional for generations (aren’t most families??)  My point in saying this is only that the process of working on my own ability to be self-empathetic has made me more empathetic to others as well.  This has had a powerful effect on my family dynamic, as we deal with some complicated ongoing issues, and six strong personalities.  My ability to make decisions based on the needs others is now filtered through my own highest being.  I have begun replacing the protective and impenetrable walls I had built around myself.  These walls were ineffective, because what was on the inside could not get out, which meant that when I let people in, I became vulnerable to their needs before my own.  The walls are being replaced with a filtration system that is my empathy.  This of course is a process that needs to be checked on regularly.  It is an easy process for the nervous system to go back to the ‘automatic’ responses to stimulus that the nervous system finds familiar.

I don’t believe that we intentionally create mental blocks within ourselves, nor do I believe that anyone wants to be miserable.  I believe that many people have not learned to reflect on their feelings, why or where the source of these feelings occurred.  We are raised to respect our elders and parents – and this is a good thing however what many people are not raised to do is to trust their own feelings FIRST.  Sometimes the most innocent thing can create blockage, a simple experience could cause us to create a mental vow that can be damaging to us.

Every year at this time, I try to reflect on the lessons of the year, the positive moments and the challenges that came up.  I try to see if hindsight can offer any wisdom on the situation, as well as what personal growth may have happened during these times.  Loving kindness comes from the heart, and should not be shadowed with any intention other than itself.  As soon as any shadow appears on our purest intentions the problems of human existence appear.

This Holiday Season, I am going to collect all of the objects that are abundant and underutilized in my home especially warm clothing.  It is a good year to help others, as we will have many innocents arriving who may not have experienced the challenges of a Canadian winter.  I hope that we can all embody a little more gratitude and self-forgiveness.  No matter what your belief system, it all starts with self.