What has evolved into a vast and complex medical system was originally an instinctual, intuitive form of self-care and self-healing. The practice of Chinese medicine dates as far back as five thousand years. Recognizing that humans were inherently linked with the cycles and rhythms of nature, early practitioners aimed to harmonize their lifestyles with those very rhythms through whole foods, herbs, conscious breathing, gentle movement exercises, meditation and therapeutic touch. From primitive use through the many generations of experimentation and study to the current Western interest and applications, Chinese medicine is proven to be effective with little or no negative consequences. Chronic pain, infertility, digestive issues, anxiety and depression are just a few of the conditions successfully and routinely addressed. And perhaps most important for today’s world, incorporating the most basic aspects of Chinese medicine into one’s lifestyle brings deep relaxation and stress relief, without which every aspect of health suffers. Other benefits include more psychological and emotional balance with a commitment to participate and take responsibility for one’s own personal development and overall wellbeing.
Balancing the opposing, yet complementary forces of Yin and Yang is a key concept in this philosophy. Qi, the active energizing force of life is Yang. Blood (representing all body fluids) is nourishing and moistening; thus it is considered Yin. It is said that no matter the health condition, if Qi and Blood are moving smoothly there will be relief and if they are not, there will be pain. When there is an excess or deficiency or stagnancy in either of these, there is imbalance and discomfort at some level in the individual. For example, if a muscle is in constant spasm, the resulting restriction in blood flow to the affected area can cause a chronic pain condition. Similarly, if one is stuck holding onto and rehashing an old issue without resolution, this can block Qi from circulating properly in the Mind. Emotional pain and diminished mental access to fresh solutions and insights can ensue. Supporting Qi and Blood is Jing. Jing is the fundamental “essence” or vitality of an individual. Jing is both inherited constitutionally in the genetic lineage of one’s parents and acquired – through lifestyle, food, water and air. Depleted Jing means decreased vitality, aging and illness.
So how can you with your busy life incorporate this to any real and meaningful benefit? Though certain health conditions require the services of a medical professional, it is truly amazing how simply and effectively one can help oneself. Remember, all of this was originally a form of self-care and self-healing. It wouldn’t have lasted so long if it didn’t work. So whether you suffer from anxiety, irregular digestion, insomnia, difficult periods, depression or chronic pain, the following guidelines should definitely bring some relief. Bit by bit, these habits come together and into your everyday life for more radiant health, inside and out.
- Breathe. Seriously. Breathe! The majority—70 percent—of toxins released from our bodies leave through the breathing process, NOT sweat or other forms of elimination. Breathing deeply and consciously oxygenates the blood that nourishes all your cells, calms the emotions and clears the mind.
- Movement. Stagnant Qi and Blood bring a world of problems and pain. Life needs to move and grow in order to thrive. That means you, too. Even if you are sitting in an office most days, gentle stretches and a brisk half hour walk in the morning or evening can work wonders. Qigong and Yoga bring the added benefits of coordinating movement with conscious breathing.
- Attention. Mindfulness practices are very likely the antidote to the insanity that is “keeping up with life today.” Not only does meditation calm you down and improve your health overall, it helps you get clear about your feelings, the situations in your life and your values. For example, a little quiet mind time might bring up the “Am I being a little too aggressive (Yang) here? Maybe this situation needs me to listen and be more forgiving (Yin).” Those insights, among others that come with a meditation practice, are invaluable to a balanced and fulfilled life.
- Whole Foods. Deeply nourish yourself with nutrient dense fruits, vegetables and whole grains every day and eliminate processed “foods” from your diet. We don’t have vitamin deficiencies; we have whole foods deficiencies. The micronutrients and antioxidants from 7–13 servings of fruits and vegetables recommended per day will boost your energy and immune system while reducing unhealthy cravings. It may sound like a lot of veggies, but when heart disease and cancer are the leading cause of younger and younger deaths, a healthy diet is just about the best insurance policy.
- Therapeutic Touch. Nothing moves and soothes imbalanced Qi and stagnant Blood like therapeutic touch. Whether you go see a massage therapist, trade sessions with your sweetie or engage in regular self-massage, it is amazing what a little TLC can do for your body and your mind.
- Rest. Supporting and replenishing Jing, your vital essence, is, well … essential. Get enough sleep. Take naps if and when you can. Unplug the laptop, silence the phone ringer and really, truly give yourself a break. A long bath, a restorative yoga class or a massage (see above) can also do the trick.