Integrating Chinese Medicine and our way of life.

Far eastern traditions of medical practice were created thousands of years ago through a deeper understanding of human existence in the context of our natural setting.  The origins are based on the philosophies of yin and yang and five phases and the belief that all living beings on this earth and in the universe are interconnected and a microcosm of a larger existence.  These historical roots explain the holistic nature of the medicine and how it was often practiced as a way of life and not just a method of treating illness.  The understanding is that sickness arises when there is an internal imbalance, which can make us more easily affected by external factors such as extreme weather, poor air and or food quality, and the interactions we have with others.

Eastern traditions of medicine also place an emphasis on the prevention of illness, which is particularly essential as we approach the cooler and drier autumn temperatures and get ready for the possibly windier and colder winter season.  And as Charity also mentioned in her most recent post, autumn is a time to gather and go inward.   Although our seasonal changes in San Francisco are not so dramatic, we still have subtle changes that give us an opportunity to go inward and cultivate our sense of balance.  

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), we call the first line of defense in our immune function, the Wei qi or protective/ defensive qi which circulates on the surface of our body and protects us from external pathogens that can lead to such cases as the common cold.  The defensive qi is controlled by the respiratory system, skin and lung as they are often the first to get affected by a ‘Wind’ attack or microbial infection.  Therefore the strength of our Wei qi will determine whether or not we catch that seasonal cold or flu.  

From a holistic perspective, there are a multitude of ways we can begin to build our Wei qi / immunity so that we can more effectively fight off a potential external pathogen through proper lifestyle modifications.  One can consider incorporating regular exercise i.e. yoga, taiji, and qigong practices, and restraining from excessive sexual activity and overwork which impair the immune system.  

Although diet recommendations are based on an individual’s unique constitution and case, some general suggestions are to eat whole organic local foods, eating your last meal ideally before 7 pm, mindful preparation of food, chewing food thoroughly, avoiding overeating and intoxicants and practicing gratitude and forgiveness. Whole food supplements such as wheat or barley grass concentrates, sea vegetables, chlorella and spirulina and a good probiotic source can help maintain healthy immune function, as the gut microbiome plays a huge role in our immunity as well. (Pitchford, 2002)

A balanced lifestyle considers not just diet, exercise, but also our environment and how we address our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.  Holistic medicine recognizes the powerful connection between the mind, body and spirit, and how our thoughts and emotions can create our state of health.  Many of our physical ailments arise from disharmony in our mental, emotional and spiritual realm.  Listening to our inner wisdom can guide us toward more balanced dietary practices and in turn better diet can support our spiritual practices.  Incorporating some form of spiritual practice can help build a strong immune system and overall quality of life.  

Eastern medical practices such as acupuncture and herbal medicine work synergistically with these lifestyle changes to help support immune function by realigning the patient’s energy with the natural state of flow and vitality of the universe.  The intention is for the patient and practitioner to work together to find a balance and as a result, enrich all aspects of their life.

Learning how to navigate through the various challenges we face give us opportunities to grow and mature in this precious and  mysterious life.  How fortunate and grateful we are to live in a city like San Francisco that is overflowing with access to healing communities like Zazen that help foster this growth.  

With gratitude,

Patricia J. Kim, L.Ac.



PItchford, P. (2002) Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.


Metal Moves Us to Let Go

Metal Moves Us to Let Go

About half a year ago, we experienced the outward bursting of wood energy as spring began.  During the summer, that outward fiery energy shone brightly as the sun enveloped us in its warmth and vitality.  We are still experiencing that here in San Francisco, but the cycle is beginning to close.  In most places, the leaves will fall off the trees as the energy of autumn moves everything inward.   Autumn is a time for reflecting on what we’ve gained over the past year.  It’s a time for letting go of that which we don’t need to carry with us any further, both materialistically and emotionally.  

The element of autumn is metal, according to Five Element Theory.  The emotion of the metal element is grief and sadness.  You may notice that you are feeling very sensitive to loss this season.  As the trees cyclically lose their leaves and the animals begin to prepare for the scarcity of winter, we, too, are experiencing the loss of the sun’s warmth and all the abundance that it provides during the summer.  It is very natural to feel more sadness in the autumn season.  It is best to allow the feelings to arise, feel them fully, notice what message there is at the depth of the emotions, and then let them go.  It’s important not to dwell in the sadness because sadness can zap the body’s energy.  With the inevitable winter in a couple months, we need to store as much of our energy as possible.  

The organ pair of the metal element are the Lungs and Large Intestine.  According to Chinese theory, each of the major organs has an external orifice and a tissue with which it is associated.  The external orifice of the Lungs is the nose and the tissue associated with the Lungs, another breathing organ, is the skin.  We need to be on lookout for the pathogen of dryness this season.  This is the season of dry skin, dry sinuses, dry coughs, and constipation.  Paying close attention to fluid intake to keep these organs hydrated will pay off this season and the next.  A dry condition left improperly cared for can be very stubborn to treat.  

Now is a perfect time to get in touch with your breathing.  Breathe in deeply and notice what is going on in your body, in your mind and in your emotional landscape.  Imagine breathing in all the healthy oxygen and vitality that the atmosphere has to offer and let go of anything that doesn’t serve you, that may be harmful to you, and that his holding you back.  If you are successful at keeping your metal in balance this season, you will be prepared to face the deep fears of the watery winter season.  

If you find yourself having difficulty balancing your metal element this season, our Acupuncture team at Zazen would be happy to help you recalibrate.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are great balancing tools for maintaining vitality and emotional wellbeing.  They are also great at assisting us in letting go, as well as preventing that dry pathogen from taking hold.

Wishing you graceful shedding,

Charity Burgess, L.Ac. 

"Swallow your smile"

I was traveling in Bali a few years ago, and through some… serendipity, synchronicity, divine play of the universe… however you want to look at it… I came to visit a Balinese healer. I was seeking relief for my chronic sinus infections and seemingly low immune system. 

This healer was gentle and had a radiant warmth. I'd seen an acupuncturist before, but something about this felt extra special. Similar to a reflex point, he pressed at points on my feet and toes. I didn't feel much, and then at one point, it felt like he had taken a knife to my toe and stabbed up my leg. I yelped, and he said, “Ah, Heart.” 

My body was shocked from the pain that had just electrified my body, but my heart didn’t hurt. Heart? What does he mean? 

He brought over to a mirror. “Look at yourself in the mirror and Smile.” 

Smiling feels natural for me…. so I did this. 

Then he followed up with. “Grab your smile in the mirror, open your mouth, and swallow it. Swallow your smile while you wrap your arms around you and hug yourself.” 

I remember laughing a bit… definitely feeling confused. 

He continued:

“Swallow your smile, deep into your solar plexus. The smile will heal your organs, the smile will heal your heart, then the smile will open your mind. If your mind is worried, it cannot take care of your body. Open mind will heal the organs. You have hurt and scars on your heart. Smiling will heal your heart. It will Open your heart.” 

I thought I’d hear that I needed to eat more quinoa, get more sleep, maybe drink more green juice. I felt like he’d hit something deep, something deeply unexpected.

Simply put, Bali cracked my heart wide open. It is a place of remembering to tend to my pain, to be vulnerable enough to open my heart wider, and to be courageous enough to protect it consciously (versus on around the clock lockdown). Conscious boundaries are a gateway to true intimacy, and heart centered living began when I chose to say yes to healing this pain and unlocking my own heart from within.

This Balinese healer gave me a wake up call that my heart was hurting, and my body and mind were responding. My heart was asking for love, and I was invited to start tending to my own well being. To admit first that this was terrifying: I was actually aching to heal and to cradle the holy ache in my heart. Yes, some scars may last an entire lifetime, but what amazes me is the beautiful resilience of my own heart.

I began the journey standing in front of my mirror, day after day, literally: smiling, picking up my smile, and swallowing it.  It felt fairly awkward at first. Now, I swallow that smile like a wholesome, nutrient-filled vitamin. The same smile I was so capable of sharing OUT, now holds the gift that fills me up with an unparalleled, inner love. 

What if you remembered that you are not alone if you are feeling some kind pain? What’s holding you back from trusting more deeply in the power if your own heart’s growth? The heart is incredibly resilient and innately intertwined to our greater well being. 

What are the whispers of your own heart?

What is aching to be tended to in your own life? 

Where are you holding yourself back from greater love in your life?

What is your heart's untapped potential, it's unbridled love? 

I hear it so often, that people are craving love, aching to feel that deeper connection. To truly feel, I realized I must first be willing to feel it all, not just what I could pick and choose. 

Every single one of us has experienced pain, possibly even some kind of wrenching, heart break. And What if we could also unlock the heart to also feel exuberant joy, boundless freedom, immense love. Be courageous enough to let yourself explore your inner smile. Radiate from the inside out.   Wherever you are on your journey — what if it began with just one moment in front of your mirror, one smile, one huge, one breath of joy, one little reminder reminder, of “hey YOU, I’ve got you!” 

Swallow your smile :)



Do Real Men Cry?


by Frank Ehrenfried

The problem really starts with defining what is considered a "real man". That definition is as varied as there are humans on this planet. Yet something powerful happens when the question is asked. A little gap is created to look at all the conditioning that encodes itself into our brains and bodies through images, symbols, myths, stories and beliefs. As childhood fades and teenagehood hits us in the face, the power of socialization can lock many men into an invisible prison. A prison they cannont see, nor touch, nor smell. A prison for their emotional lives.


So what on earth does this prison look like and how do we become aware of its impact on our lives? Thankfully a group of film makers asked this question in a documentary called "The Mask You Live In". Chronicling the story of American men and their struggles with stress, overwhelm, isolation and relationships, the movie reveals how destructive elements of masculinity can turn vibrant young boys into frustrated and lonely adults.

Reading a recent interview with the director, it was startling to discover the statistics that motivated them to create the film. Jennifer Newson (lead director) found that in the United States boys, compared to girls, were more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, more likely to be prescribed medication, more likely to binge drink, more likely to stay out of school, more likely to commit a violent crime, and more likely to take their own life...But why?

In the course of the film a powerful picture is painted showing how boys are systematically taught to reject aspects of their own humanity. What is left outside the realm of acceptable in their conditioning often includes empathy, emotional regulation, connection, community and expression of their inner world (aka feelings). Many by the age of adulthood no longer have access to these parts of themselves, much less are aware of how it negatively impacts their current relationships and state of wellbeing.

Reflecting on my own life, I felt a deep connection to the message of the movie. While I still am terrified to confront the contents my own mind, I realize that only by seeing what lies in there am I able to become aware of what drives my habits. So many of the inner programs and belief systems I am controlled by were inputed without my consent. Many of the role models I looked up to expressed the most extreme versions of masculinity, hyper-sexuality and an adoration of intellect, money and power. There had to be more to being a man than just this...


In an attempt to embrace a fuller range of experience and expression I stepped into the unknown. This required a new map for the territory and I took to constructing a cartography of masculinity that went beyond the invisible prison.

Map making isn`t easy, especially when the territory can be full of painful pitfalls. Taking time away from the busy "doing" of life, I found myself drawn to some of the most creative tools available for becoming more aware. While I love taking the lone wolf approach, this new path required a leap of faith. It asked that I reach out for help in ways that often made me feel ashamed.

While asking for help at first felt awkward, I eventually got over it. Through a powerful slew of tools such as flotation tanks, acupuncture, therapy, breath-work, mindfulness and nature, I plotted a new course. I intentionally joined communities that shared my new values and were open to walking a similar path of self-knowledge and exploration. These communities and practices helped me find parts of myself that I had split off or abandoned growing up. While the process will always be a work in progress, my new map is no longer based on all the most extreme elements of masculinity. I now have room to fully be myself and find connection in ways that I choose, helping me feel more alive than ever. As former NFL Coach and Player Joe Ehrmann remarks in the`s time to end this hyper-masculine narrative right here! Its end with me and it can end with you too.


Check out the trailer for "The Mask You Live In" below.

Seeking Balance: The door to self-exploration

by Allie Klun


Balance. A small word with big meaning. It's a word that we often use to describe a state of mind and being that many of us would like to be in. With popular references to "work / life balance", "balanced diets", "balancing our schedules", it's clear that balance is a desire that we seek in almost all areas of our life.

So how do we achieve it? How do we balance our workloads, our responsibilities, our health, our life? These are the questions many of us seek answers to with hope in our hearts for things to be better, for circumstances to improve. It is also when these questions are asked that the door of exploration appears. 

Now, I wish there was a simple prescription or routine that when enacted brought all people back into balance. But unfortunately,  this is not the case.

Balance is an individual and personal exploration. It is a series of continuous shifts and changes over time, in all areas of our life. The recipe for restoring balance is as unique as each and every one of us is. When we start to explore balance it becomes the beginning of a blueprint, a map of who we are and who we are meant to become. When we recognize this uniqueness, this individualized approach to balance, the door begins to open and we are invited to embark on a wonderful adventure.

When we dedicate the time, space and effort to direct our attention to the areas of our lives that feel "out of balance", we are able to see possibilities and potential we might never have known we had. If we simply complain about the lack of balance in our careers, schedules, and lives we will continue to feel "off", often resulting in physical ailments and unresolved issues in our mind and our life.

Here I could list click-worthy, catch all tips like "eat healthier!", "exercise more!", "meditate!" to get you started (well, I actually do recommend all of those!) But I also know the importance of a dedicated and individualized approach to this pursuit of balance. It is not always as simple as it is made out to be, and it's often helpful to have someone to consult with as you move through the world of wellness.

Starting the journey of exploring what it means to come back into balance is a practice. And it is often a journey that calls for teachers, nourishment and support along the way. As a Wellness Consultant, I would be honored to help support you on your journey. 

If you are ready to begin your exploration of what it means to be balanced, we invite you to take the first step by scheduling a complimentary Wellness Consultation at Zazen.

Book your free consultation now.

I look forward to meeting you and assisting you on your journey!



Zazen, A Community in Daily Care


By Min Yoon, Zazen Manager, Consultant

Living in San Francisco as a secular transplant, I have many friends who I see once a month, once a week at max. I’ve yet to know what it’s like to have a community that knows how I’m doing, on a day to day basis. I love the city but wonder what it would be like to have neighbors and a community that know me. More so, it feels like a fantasy to imagine someone helping someone else on the streets of San Francisco, gridlocked in all our busyness, iPhones, and Ubers.

Then, still in San Francisco, I somehow fell into Zazen’s experiment of creating a collective work environment based on deep care. As a space for healing and growth, we’re trying new ways of relating to one another to cultivate deep listening and care for ourselves. We do this by creating a culture and community of support that holds space for individual healing and transformation through daily practices. These practices allow us to feel supported in doing the work of caring for others once they walk in through our doors. We hope that shifting ourselves and our relationship to mutual care will extend outward to our community of clients, interfaith community, and beyond.

One of our daily practices includes a daily meditation and check-in circle with our staff family. We hold this space three times a day to invite our staff to sit and come into presence, bring awareness to how we’re arriving, set an intention in relation to the whole, state how we may be supported in that intention, and at the end of the shift, reflect on our intentions.

While the form is simple, trying out the practice with intention day after day is what shifts how we decide to be present in vulnerability and act with care and support beyond the check-in meeting. As in any relationship, deep care takes time to get to know one another and build trust. This takes trust and the group’s genuine receptivity to ensure that what we share about our flaws, trials, and hardships will be met with care, without diminishing credibility or working relationships.

Before the trust has been built, there’s this grey gamble of the standstill. Building trust is one of those mysterious phenomenons that seems to be based on thin air. How I would describe what has happened at Zazen is that a hand was offered out in trust first, without knowing whether others will act in trust, as a group of people took a chance in trusting the collective. Then as new people join, they are asked to take a chance with us and see what happens.

Over time, we can have a different conversation when it feels like it’s okay to need support, to feel human, and to make mistakes. Over time, we develop a deeper level of attunement to individual needs and can shift how we can work better individually and together.

David Foster Wallace talks about the time and sacrifices that this takes, in This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life:

“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”

In our daily practice, we’ve created a space where we can reflect and support each other for healing and growth toward deeper transformations beyond individual healing. This allows for something like coming back to ourselves to be able to care for others... receptivity and understanding when something goes wrong during our shift, rather than reactivity and frustration... the openness to ask for support from the community rather than trying to just get through it... the space to grow into new roles as individuals and as a community... In doing this day after day, we create a community that can rely on one another and can do something together, that we couldn’t do alone.

More from our community:

“We are inspiring together.
We can’t be inspired totally alone. It's pretty overwhelming to feel like the only one who is having an experience, an inner conflict, or even a joy.
Disconnection this way I think keeps us bound to that repetitive forgetting; bound to patterning that eventually EXpires our spirit.
We get overwhelmed with solo pattern.
How can you learn anything if you are overwhelmed?
We’re having a different conversation here at Zazen than we might allow ourselves to have outside of this space. When that's allowed, it's remarkable!
Suddenly we get have the chance to gain insight, motivation and knowledge from sharing, and it grows the idea of a connection that is felt. It reveals a need for faith in community, not just ourselves.
It’s different. It’s not really the way that the world is set up, especially this western world. And I think that we all have a deep need to restore that faith in each other. In this tiny little spot, in this microcosm, we're able to recognize that it's not just hope, either.
It's recognition of what BELIEF  can be. Without religion, and what we used to do as a community, there’s a part of the collective that’s starving inside. I see us feed each other a little bit of soul food at a time here. I see us inspire a simple and radical ritual here, forming through us."
 - Darby Erin, Bodyworker

“It’s an opportunity to create space and to create a level of greater understanding of themselves. Every person has their own individual needs in seeing the whole person. Being able to reach out to our communities and create a sense of awareness about ourselves, deeper awareness and inquiry into that and helping to facilitate that, whether it’s in their beginning phases or to further that, at a deeper level. Being able to identify what that is, and offering these opportunities here to go deeper with themselves, or to stay themselves, or to not do the thing, to have the experience where they can be invited to go deeper into their journey.”
- Patricia Kim, Acupuncturist

“A warrior makers his own mood”


By Micha Peled, Director / Producer / Independent Film Maker, Teddy Bear Films

When I got to my floating session this evening I was carrying some baggage from work.  In fact, I was hopping mad. Both people and software misbehaved badly today as far as I was concerned and I was taking it personally. As I stripped off my clothes, jumped into the shower, and entered the chamber, I was still hopping mad.

But as soon as I submerged my ears in the tepid water the outside world began to float away. I could still hear my heartbeat rushed and percussive, but it began to quiet down. I was still churning inside, but now my slights felt petty. More meaningful were my body sensations floating out of gravity.

So what happened there? What has altered my perspective so profoundly? 

Studies done on how the brain is affected by floatation offer a few explanations. Floatation tends to raise the level of brain waves known as Theta waves, which are associated with a relaxed and calm state. Our lympic system responds to floatation by inhibiting the release of hormones and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, which increase stress. Another explanation points to the effects of anti-gravity: by freeing those parts of the brain devoted to dealing with the effects of gravity on the body, it enables the brain to focus more effectively with other matters, such as mind and spirit. 

Whatever is the explanation, I came out of the chamber reminding myself of a favorite mantra: “A warrior makers his own mood,” I began to chuckle.

Interview with Yoga Teacher Allie Klun

What brought you to yoga?

Yoga came into my life 11 years ago when I was looking for a new fitness routine. I was an athlete when I was younger and I was looking for a new way to work out that would be supportive for injuries I had acquired over the years. Little did I know that yoga was so much more than the exercises and poses. The fitness aspect brought me to yoga and the mental awareness and life lessons are what have kept me growing and learning on the path.

Describe some impactful experiences in your yogic path.
My most impactful yogic experience was probably my teacher training. I trained in an intensive program in Bali with some amazing teachers, spiritual leaders, and students from all over the world. Spending time in such a serene and natural setting helped me to see and experience the full beauty of the practice, and it is something I feel and embody with each session I teach and attend.

How has your yoga practice affected your life?
Yoga has been a truly transformative part of my life. It has been an all inclusive outlet for movement, mental shifts, and creativity. It is the constant in a busy world and busy life, and it keeps me grounded. Yoga has been a key reminder of what is important in my life, and it is something I truly believe has the ability to help all who practice.

Describe your classes and what your share at Zazen.
I teach a Friday morning Hatha Flow class that focuses on breath, alignment, and moderately paced movement and flow. My classes and workshops incorporate meditation and mindfulness techniques that are designed to be carried into your everyday life. I understand that many of us lead busy lives and active lifestyles, and my intention is to share ways that we can bring awareness and mindfulness into our day to day in a sustainable and supportive way.

July Acupuncture Blog

After suffering from a what I considered a very relentless cold viral attack that could’ve lasted weeks, I thought it would be a perfect time to share how Chinese medicine helped me to greatly shorten my recovery time. Spring is generally the windiest time of the year in the Bay Area as I discovered a couple of weeks ago when I had to spend hours outdoors in the Presidio after carelessly leaving the house without sufficient layers.

A couple of days after being exposed to the blustery cold wind that day for many hours, I came down with intense cold symptoms that I was thankfully able to tame with acupuncture, herbs and cupping.  


In Chinese medicine, a common cold can be diagnosed or classified as either a wind-cold or wind-heat that has attacked the defenses of the body.  The term wind is analogous to the viruses or microbes associated with colds, flus or infectious diseases. Wind is considered the primary factor that can penetrate through the skin and open pores of the body.  According to Chinese medicine, the back of the neck is where the most superficial meridian runs.  Therefore one should be mindful about covering up with proper layers, especially the back of the neck, when being exposed to the often unpredictable wind and cold in San Francisco.   

With a wind-cold, one can experience symptoms such as body aches, more chills than fever, malaise, possibly a cough or itchy throat, clear runny nose,  and no sweating.    Wind-heat symptoms often start with a sore throat, where there is fever more than chills, body aches, malaise, cough and yellow nasal discharge, and more sweating is present.

Acupuncture points are used that strongly support immune function, reduce pain, and aid the body to clear the pathogen.  Cupping is another method which is also used to aid the body’s defenses by pulling out the toxins. Glass cups are gently placed on the skin after creating a vacuum suction seal.  The pressure facilitates the release of toxins out by stimulating fresh blood and oxygen flow to the organs such as the liver, kidney, intestines, lungs, and skin, that are involved with detoxification in addition to the lymphatic system.  Since the blood is being pulled to the surface, there will be some bruising with various discoloration depending upon the level of stagnation, which can last for a few days.  

Thankfully after receiving an acupuncture and cupping treatment at the onset of the worst of my symptoms, I immediately experienced tremendous relief from the cold symptoms and increased energy.  After a few treatments, which also included taking herbal formulas,  I was completely healed of my symptoms and my energy was fully recovered back to 100% more quickly than if I had tried to fight it on my own.  

With renewed energy, I have discovered an even greater appreciation for the 3000+ year old ancient medicine that continuously inspires and empowers me to better help my patients have a deeper understanding and awareness of their health.

In my next newsletter, I would like to further discuss different ways we can maintain the natural order of balance in our lives according to the philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine in order to prevent illness.

For the month of July, Zazen will be offering free community acupuncture every day, as well as the opportunity to schedule a  free 15 minute phone consultation for private treatments.

In best health,

Patricia J. Kim, L.Ac.


Interview with Zazen Yoga Teacher Lucia Grace Young

What brought you to yoga?

For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to body movement and the healing arts. I have been dancing since birth, basically, and practicing yoga for over ten years. I really landed on my yogic path in 2013 in a moment of grief, questioning, and life transition. I found that when I stepped onto my mat, I experienced a kind of deep awareness, relief, and healing that I had rarely touched into before. The routine of my morning practice felt like a sanctuary within myself. Over the years since then I have discovered profound healing and radical self-transformation by tuning into the wisdom of my own body heart and soul. I am passionate about sharing this practice with others and cultivating space for them to embark on their own healing paths. 


Describe some impactful experiences on your yogic path:

Some of the most impactful experiences I've had on my yogic path have been during retreats that I've been on and then co-taught on the Big Island of Hawaii. When I'm in my practice and in Hawaii, I've learned that my powers of manifestation are extra charged up by the energy of the island - I truly feel like my best self and my creativity gets totally unleashed! Another deeply impactful experience on my yogic path has been my Yoga Therapy group work with veterans through the Purusha Seva Project. During these 8 week programs I've seen amazing transformation in these wonderful people toward states of deeper self-knowing, relief, and inner peace. I feel gratitude for the opportunity to work with each of them. 


How has your yoga practice affected your life?:

I continue to be drawn deeper into the practice of yoga not only for the physical benefits of asana, but for the yoga that happens off the mat. Integrating the yogic principles of truth, compassion, mindfulness and acceptance into my life has been transformative. One of the most impactful things I've learned through my studies of yoga is that what you give energy to in your mind, what you feed with your attention and thoughts, is what you manifest in your life. have the power to manifest anything you want through positive, heart-full thinking and imagination! 


Describe your classes and what you share at Zazen

My Vin/Yin classes at Zazen are somatic in nature, infused with energizing chakra practices, guided visualizations, and conscious breathwork as we flow between the styles of Vinyasa and Yin. Depending on the energy and vibe of the day, I may steer the class more into vigorous Vinyasa, or take a more mellow approach with a deep Yin practice with a gentle flowing warmup. My goal is to create a safe and inspirational space in which students can let go and discover their deepest truths as they move, play, and heal. I feel passionately about embodying and integrating self-love, authenticity, empowerment, and support into my teaching, and sharing this with students.

Lucia teaches Vin/Yin on Fridays, 4:30-5:45 at Zazen

The Irritable Season

On the tail end of this sunny spring season, have you noticed more edgy people on the road, at work, or in your day-to-day social interactions?  This is a part of the natural seasonal cycle according to the Chinese medical Five Element Theory.  The spring season is controlled by the wood element.  The wood element, like a tree sprouting from a seed, jaggedly bursts outward from its winter constriction.  It makes sense that the emotion of the wood element is anger.  

During the spring season, we are more prone to wood element imbalances, like road rage and stress.  These imbalances can be quite significant in our society because of the cultural acceptance of obscene amounts of stress as a necessary burden for survival. We can start to see a variety of physical symptoms, as well. If not properly treated, these wood imbalances can become difficult to manage chronic illnesses.  Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon pathway for many people these days.

Have you been feeling less tolerant of those around you this season?  Are you feeling more likely to flip off your fellow drivers on the road?  These are clues that you are experiencing a wood imbalance.  It's important to make time for self-care when you notice these feelings arising.  

The good news is that there are a variety of ways to take care of yourself to keep your stress levels in check.  A daily meditation practice is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to manage everyday stressors.  Chinese medicine is also incredibly supportive for keeping that wood element from throwing your nervous system out of whack.  The deep relaxation induced by acupuncture and the nourishing support of Chinese herbal medicine will help to calm the wood element and keep it from growing out of control.  If we want to fully experience the fiery joy of the approaching summer season, maintenance for our wood element right now is key.  

Zazen is currently offering a full schedule of private acupuncture sessions and daily community acupuncture, as well as daily community meditations.

Yours in health,

Charity Burgess, L.Ac. 

For more information about acupuncture and other related topics, please check out the recent interview I did with the dynamic Nutritionist Anna Frumkin here.  

Interview: Yoga Practice at Zazen: On the Mat, in the World


Tyler Krupp interviewed Sandy Lamerson, Yoga Teacher and Yoga Manager at Zazen.

Question: Why practice yoga at Zazen? 

Sandy: Yoga students in San Francisco may be overwhelmed, perhaps overjoyed, by the number of yoga studios in this city as well the number of yoga teachers and styles of yoga. For some new and seasoned students, it may be challenging to find a practice "home". What is important for every student, however, is finding a teacher they can trust: someone who inspires them and helps them grow -- not only in yoga poses, but as a person. 

I think Zazen is a unique yoga studio in San Francisco, in that we provide a warm, inviting "container" for students to explore yoga and explore themselves. Our teachers are trained in both traditional and modern yoga lineages including: Ashtanga, Iyengar, Hatha and Vinyasa Flow, Yin, Restorative, Gentle Yoga and Mindful Movement. Despite the range of yoga styles, all of our teachers work to uphold the principles of yoga and to cultivate the basic intentions of Zazen which are:

Presence - We are present and mindful in our work, practice and teaching

Gratitude - We are aware of the gift of life and look for ways to express gratitude

Care - Our work involves being with people who benefit from our care and attention. 

Mastery - We aspire to master our respective skill or discipline and offer its fullest expression

Zazen teachers recently met to discuss the overreaching intentions of Zazen and how to manifest the mission of Zazen in our yoga classes and everything that we do. Yoga students can expect our teachers to work to cultivate these basic intentions. 

At Zazen, yoga students can expect personal instruction, a meditative environment and teachers who are deeply interested in teaching yoga in its fullest sense. The atmosphere is supportive, non-competitive and community oriented with a focus on cultivating balance, health, wellbeing and growth.

Question: Can you say something about your personal experience teaching and practicing yoga and working at Zazen?

Sandy: I started teaching yoga at Zazen in the spring of 2013 at the old Hyde St. location. Zazen was the first place I started teaching public classes. Zazen has been a supportive place to grow and develop as a teacher. This support has allowed me to become more confident and pursue a path of yoga that feels like a trustworthy and noble path for a lifetime. What I am sharing in my classes now comes from my studies and training in Iyengar yoga. Some hallmarks of Iyengar's teachings are precision in alignment, timing and sequencing. The alignment begins with the outer physical body and leads one to the inner experience of mind and consciousness. So, you could say that yoga is a culturing of the body, but more importantly it is a culturing and maturing of the consciousness.  Last year I had good fortune to travel to India and study with some of BKS Iyengar's long time students. This deepened my faith in yoga practice and I experienced the effects of sustained and directed practiced under skillful teachers. So I feel that as I continue to learn, it becomes my job to share the gift of yoga with others.  BKS Iyengar said, "Teaching Yoga is difficult, but it is the best service you can give to humanity."  

I am also a practicing Buddhist and meditator and my main interest is exploring practices which lead to the cessation of suffering and the growth of wisdom. I feel blessed to live in San Francisco and have the opportunity to study with wise and experienced teachers. 

Working at Zazen in the management team has also been a blessing. I am continually amazed by the positive community space we are creating here. Not only are we a yoga studio, Zazen is also a wellness center and interfaith practice community, so we are a home for many disciplines. 

A unique and fulfilling part of working at Zazen is our daily meditation and check in. Everyday the staff and members sit together for meditation (the public is also welcome). After the meditation  we do a "check in" in which we can share whatever is arising for us that day: physically, mentally, emotionally, basically we can share whatever is arising. Then we state an intention for the shift: this is what we want to manifest in our time together. It can be a practical intention or sometime closer to the heart and spirit. Overall, this practice of meditation and check-in continues to strengthen our community and lead us on in our paths in manifesting what is important to us. 

Question: Teachers often use the phrase, "taking yoga off the mat". What does that mean to you?

Not only do we need community, teachers, teachings in the sacred space of the yoga room or meditation hall, church, mosque or temple, we also need to continue our practice all of the time in our daily life, otherwise there is a disconnect. Disconnection brings suffering. So, to realize yoga, spirituality, or religion you have to BE yoga, be spiritual, be religious. Not just some time, but all of the time. Yoga means union and this union is yoga. To forget even for a moment, to be pulled by desire, greed, hatred, or forgetfulness we are pulled out of this fundamental union. That is why the way we live our life is most important. Our choices, our lifestyle, our patterns our consumption all have a big effect --  but most fundamental is our mind and heart. 

I try to live simply, live with few desires. But it is more than that. There is an active component too. We must actively resist the negative forces and habits in the mind. This transformation is the most difficult thing we can do as human beings, first to transform negative habits into positive ones, and move to a place beyond "good and bad" to a wisdom which sees things as they are and responds appropriately in the moment. This is the essence of Zen and Yoga in my understanding: to never be apart from that fundamental connection. That is what I aspire to.  

Om, shanti, shanti, shanti...

A warm embrace and release

Min, Float Ambassador, Experiential Artist, Zazen Manager

Min, Float Ambassador, Experiential Artist, Zazen Manager

I find room to breathe in floating, away from the external voices, logical narratives, and societal pressures in my daily consciousness, and find some space for grounding and exploring within.

When I first heard about floating, I was curious about the darkness. I had heard it could be a strange secular initiation of sorts. My first float was actually quite uncomfortable, with my neck hurting, hair feeling heavy, and my body reluctant to give itself to the unknown water. As with any practice, I decided to try it for a bit, at least more than once. Upon entering, the tank is very dark and moist every time. After a few more floats, accustomed to the walls and space in between, my breaths started to melt me into the warm darkness, the green screen for an alternate existence.

The reflections that follow come from my journal. These experiences have each only happened once.

“I can’t tell whether my eyes are open or not. It’s darker than the night. I feel nothing. I am nothing. I lie between subconscious and conscious levels. I wonder if this is what it feels like to be dead. I wonder where I would be in death. Something transitions. I get the sense of being truly here in this space, beyond any land I can travel to. In this plane of existence, I feel an amorphous love for humanity. I remember where I happen to be in all this - isolated in the deep, dark tanks of the Marina, and laugh.”

“I enter and feel nothing. I sway from side to side to feel the water, then start breathing and waiting. The sadness I’ve been neglecting for a while comes back. I continue to feel anxious and sad. I start crying and decide to give myself permission to cry more. It feels heavy for a while. I then remember where I am, in a box that resembles a safe, away from my mom. I make the choice to be brave and let myself go deeper. In traveling toward the dark knot of my emotions, sadness and sympathy opens into love, a bright unraveling of my fear. I wonder if my brain is trying to relax me as I start to see my mom, actually happy, a sight I’m sure I have yet to see in real life. I suddenly feel nauseous and sit up for a while.”

“This time, I fell back and felt immediate release. I was excited to see where I would end up. I fell… deep into the dark blue end of an ocean, as I used to imagine beyond the cliffs of Guam, where I grew up. One by one, my tense body was washed away of layers of armors I didn’t know I had been wearing. Why had I been wearing so many? I wondered if I would like dying in the ocean and whether death excited me and whether that’s why I loved the ocean. Like the ocean, I remembered how vast I loved being yet how I wasn’t allowed to be. I had such few places where I could be, even in my own home. My memories cradled me to the surprise of feeling truly loved and seen for the first time and the space for release I felt. My body melted. I felt my brain lighting up. I FELT JOY! I wished for everyone, this sense of release and safety even for one sweet moment in their lives. I felt tears, warm on my face. I remembered when I couldn’t find trust; I couldn’t allow myself to love. I remembered I can be here now with the gift of this memory that’s lasted beyond our relationship.”

Dispatches from the Float Ambassadors: Jane Chen


Jane Chen, co-founder and CEO of Embrace

Why I float:

Floating is amazing because it really helps to put my mind at ease and bring me stillness, in a way that even meditation cannot at times. My deepest periods of being in a meditative state have been during my floats. I have found that during my most stressful moments, only floating helps to completely clear my mind and bring it to state of thinking about nothing, which is quite remarkable. I highly recommend it for anyone who has never done it, and has found that is has helped to deepen my meditation practice. For those new to meditation or who want to try it, floating is a great way to to know the desired state you want to achieve.

Lessons from floating:

I am generally very claustrophobic and have horrible night vision, so being in the float tank has always been a little scary for me. I usually leave the door ajar just a little bit to let some light in. A few months ago, while I was floating, the door closed completely without my realizing it. Because I was a bit disoriented and my body had shifted position a bit, it was unclear to me which way the exit was. I started to panic: what if I was locked in the float chamber? In my state of panic, I started to tell myself to calm down, which was only serving to make me even more panicked. I finally said to myself instead, "it's ok to be scared." By accepting the fear, rather than judging myself for it, or forcing myself to feel any differently than I did in that moment, I was finally able to calm down. I found my way to the exit and pushed the door open, relieved to see the light flooding into the chamber. While this is certainly not the point of floating, I think it was a good reminder of mindfulness, which to me, is being aware and accepting how you are feeling in each moment, and treating these feelings with peace and equanimity - rather than casting judgement or trying to force them to be any different than what they are.




Micha Peled, Director / Producer / Independent Film Maker, Teddy Bear Films

How do you describe NOTHINGNESS? Words fail. At least they do me.

But that’s the premise of floating. Eliminate all sensory stimulation, even gravity, and lsee what happens when you physically feel nothing at all.  

It was with this notion that lowered myself into the lukewarm waters of Zazen’s floatation tank. 

At first, the water is cold. Actually, it’s the air that’s cold. The parts that are not submerged are caressed by the wisp of a cool current. My head bumps lightly against the soft wall a few times as I’m swayed back and forth in the water. 

In “Altered States,” Ken Russell’s 1980 sci-fi cult movie, William Hurt plays a mad scientist who self-experiments in a flotation tank. But he goes in fully loaded on psychedelic substances. I, perhaps overzealously, deny myself any pharmacological assistance in the name of scientific integrity. In the movie, Hurt comes out of the tank completely bonkers,  Hollywood, as usual, offering no insightsinto real life situations. So I’m on my own on this.

In the meantime, things are getting more comfy. My body has adjusted and now the temperature is perfect. I settle in, laying still, my limbs stretched out but not touching anything. It’s effortless. My body is fully relaxed. Now, I have to deal only with my mind, which is racing. Here comes a review of the day. Then the familiar To Do list, ravenously claiming items into its fat belly. Who, what, when. Is this what happens to the minds of the few people who get to float up in space? I hope not. 

One theory goes that in eliminating our sense of gravity, the floatation tank frees our mind.  Much of our brain activity is tied up with constantly performing gazillions of calculations for muscular activity required to negotiate our gravity-burdened universe. Since we don’t need to do this heavy mental lifting in the tank, we become aware of a deeper layer of minute and subtle muscular tensions, knots and hot spots in our body. 

Flotation takes me somewhere else. Focusing on the physical aspect of no-sensation allows the frenzied list-making in my mind to dissolve into a weave of relaxed daydreams. They are very vivid and my eyes remain open, staring into the vast darkness. I touch nothing and nothing touches me. I hear nothing till a loud knock signals that my hour is up.

Back in my street clothes, I feel strangely calm, but I also have a distinct sensation of walking taller, more upward, like after a very good massage. Living for years with chronic back pain and related neuropathic issues, this feeling of a relaxed and straight spine is heaven-sent. On a physical level, I feel wonderfully transformed. The rest will have to wait till the next time.


Dispatches from the Float Ambassadors

Frank E., Float Ambassador, CIIS Graduate Student, Zazen Manager

Things just didn't feel right and I didn't know what was wrong with me. I had all the usual trappings of modern life held together with one of those painfully fake smiles, yet I couldn't ignore the fact that I constantly felt empty inside. While this is probably how every self help author beings, this time it was happening to me. With no one in my family willing to have a real conversation about what was wrong, I turned to talk therapy for help. 

Harboring a harsh inner critic, I initially felt a great deal of self judgment around the idea of sharing my deepest and most personal feelings with a complete stranger. Yet I later realized that a psychotherapist was the perfect person to do that with. Who better to explore the depths of my mind with than someone who has traveled into the darkest regions of their own psyche and made it back. I felt comforted by the idea of having a sherpa to walk with me down the windy and unknown path of my inner life.

Around the same time I discovered isolation float tanks through an online documentary. Two hours after doing a quick google search I walked into Zazen's front door. I entered the tank for the first time without any idea of what to expect. A dark room, no lights, a sound proof tank, what was I thinking? Pushing past my fears I dove into the experience and entered into what felt like a warm hug from the salty ocean. Emerging on the other side, my entire body melted into relaxation as I finally experience what life without anxiety felt like.

After about my third float I quickly realized how useful the tank was for introspection and meditation. The difficult work of exploring my psyche with a talk therapist often brought up hard emotions that regularly thew me into a tailspin. Floating grounded me by allowing a spaciousness and clarity to surround the difficult feelings, while also allowing my nervous system to settle down. Sometimes I opted to float before my therapy sessions, creating a unique opportunity to move my awareness from the outer world into my inner experience. This process helped me witness the torrent of thoughts, worries, fears, beliefs and feelings that I often bypasses in life.

Over the year of floating and therapy I came to better know myself through exploring the conditioning, belief systems and "shoulds" I was handed down by older generations. Week after week I developed an awareness around my emotional states, growing my ability to hold boundaries and tell people how I felt in the moment. My life didn't exactly become a happily ever after story through this process, but now I have gained an awareness to choose a new way of being in the world. One that isn't preprogramed and entirely run by habit, rather now I can choose to relate to myself and others in an intentional and meaningful way.

The healing potential of combining therapy and float tanks are as close to magic as you can get. Having both available at Zazen has been one of the greatest gifts I have come across on my healing journey. There are few places in the world that offer this unique combination and that's one of the many reasons Zazen is a special place.

Dispatches from the Float Ambassadors


Mirabai, Yoga Instructor and Kirtan Leader

I am a yoga instructor and teach a dozen group classes/week as well as maintain my own yoga practice.  I also play tennis, hike, swing dance, etc. so I'm very physical.  Floating helps me release muscular and emotional tension.

There's this concept called "Pratyhara" in yoga, where one withdrawals their senses to move closer to a meditative state.  The flotation tank is pitch dark, which calms my mind, and cuts out all sensory input and takes me there.  I get to be fully with myself, it's a gift for myself.  It takes courage to go deep within, and floating supports that.  

I find when I do it more regularly, it helps relieve deep layers of stress I didn't even know were there.  I find more peace within. There's a deeper letting go and a feeling of surrender when I float that I do not get anywhere else.  I was a regular receiver of Watsu at Harbin Hot Springs, and find Zazen to be a safe, clean substitute.  There's a healing atmosphere there and conscious community.

Blessings, Mirabai

Dispatches from the Float Ambassadors

Brittany B. , Zazen Float Ambassador, President & Co-Founder of Ritual Hot Yoga

"Six months ago I floated for the very first time. At this point in my life I was practicing yoga and meditation almost daily and was teaching anywhere from 10-12 yoga classes a week. One day after class a student of mine mentioned that they had been wanting to try floating and asked if I knew anything about it. At the time I had heard a bit about it, but had never actually tried it for myself. 

This conversation peaked my curiosity and I decided to do a bit of my own research on floating shortly after. Turns out there is a lot of research and literature around the topic and I became fascinated by what I believed could be the next wave of meditation. Interestingly enough my business partner and best friend beat me to the tank and came back raving about his experience with a gift certificate in hand for me to sign up for my very first float. 

Within the week I booked my first float. When you float, you are submerged in a pool of water filled with pounds of epsom salts that make your body feel weightless. As a result your body floats just above water. The water is warm, 93-95 degrees, and the tank is pitch black. You can’t hear, you can’t see, and there really is nothing to smell. With almost all of your senses deprived you have no choice but to concentrate on you and that is where the magic really begins. 

Within a few minutes of floating I became very aware of what the things that were racing in my mind. I could hear the way I talked to myself. The way my thoughts flowed rapidly from one topic to the next. My mind felt messy and busy. It was no wonder in my life outside of the tank I often felt stressed and overwhelmed. 

After 30 minutes inside of the tank I felt as if 3 days had gone by. I was very ready for this experience to be over and to distract myself again from all that was swirling around in my mind. It was right around this time that I noticed my mind softened and a sense of ease started to takeover my entire body. My mind didn’t feel so crazy and my body felt relaxed. “Is this what peace feels like?” I thought. I let go. I felt held. I felt calm. I felt connected. I felt like me. Oh how I had missed me. "