The Qigong Corner - 2: Qigong Walking

By John Voigt


Boston Common 2011. Source: author.

Introduction.

It is common knowledge in the west that walking is an excellent
exercise that promotes general fitness. When walking is practiced as a qigong it
becomes even more effective. For Chinese people throughout the world it is the
most commonly practiced qigong used to promote health and well-being.
Walking becomes a qigong when: The person is fully aware of 1. The gravity of the
earth grounding and supporting them. 2. The air they are breathing deeply and fully
into their lower abdomen (the simplest definition of qigong is “breath work”). 3.
The beauty of nature around them—the trees, flowers, sunrise, other walkers, etc.,
as well as the universal nature above them (sky, clouds, sun, the stars, planets,
galaxies, heaven)—and that they are an integral and living moving part of all of this.
Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.
Thich Nhat Hanh.

Qigong Gymnastic Walking.

There are many styles of walking qigong. What follows was synthesized
from various instructions from my teachers, observations
in parks in Chinatowns in the United States and Canada, and from the
sources listed below. A bibliography is attached for further study.

The Simple Walk. Stand straight. Relax your body and mind. Have your shoulders
loose, and your chin slightly tucked it. Breathe comfortably, slowly, and fully
through the nose into the lower abdomen. Now begin walking calmly, and allow
your arms to loosely and gently sway from side to side. When the left foot moves
forward the right arm sways forward and slightly to the left; when the right foot
moves forward the left arm sways forward and slightly to the right. Increase your
awareness of your surroundings, your gentle but full breathing, and the way the qi-
life energy is feeling inside your body. Walking in this way moves health bringing
energy (qi) throughout the vessels and channels (meridians) and organs of the body.
Increasing The Amount of Qi-Vital Energy. Mind thinking nothing. Body relaxed
and tranquil. Inhaling more oxygen than exhaling. (Sheng Keng Yun).

Now intensify your walking this way: have your right hand make a waving motion
up as you quickly breathe in twice. Then as you exhale once the left foot steps out.
Immediately reverse this with the left hand making a waving motion up as you
breathe in twice. Then as you exhale once the right foot steps out. Do this
approximately for five to fifteen minutes. If it feels really good and natural you may
do it for a longer period of time. If something feels wrong or not right then stop
doing it and consult a qigong teacher well versed in such things, or if necessary a
doctor or physical therapist.

Video of Qigong Gymnastic Walking


Carolyn Wilkins - Reiki master, spiritualist medium, tai chi and qigong
practitioner demonstrating
Qigong walking gymnastics.

Walking Meditation.

Walk very slowly, and optionally and if safe to do, with bare feet on clean
naked earth. When stepping out lift the heel first. When stepping down
the toes touch the earth first. Clear the mind of all verbal thinking about what
happened in the past and may happen in the future and be totally mindful in the
present. For a beginner, walk in this manner for ten minutes up to a half an hour at a
time.

If you can’t keep your mind quiet as you walk, then count numbers related to the
rhythm of your breathing patterns, or repeat a single word (e.g., “Peace”).
The walking becomes more spiritual or religious when you add a silently said
spiritual affirmation such as, I feel more youthful, healthy, and beautiful [or
handsome] with each step I take. Or a short religious prayer; e.g., Heal me, O Lord,
and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise. – [Jeremiah
17:14]. For believing Christians, silently chanting the name Jesus contains enormous
power. From a Daoist perspective, by observing your oneness with the movements
of interacting yin and yang energetic elements around you as you walk, you may be
brought to a place that offers the quietude of a deep seated mediation. This qi-
energy harmonizing is said to extend all the way to the stars, planets, and galaxies of
the universe to the divine forces in heaven.

A more simple practice as you walk is to repeat to yourself the word Dao; which may
be understood as “The Way” – (as in the path, the proper direction, for spiritual
progress).


Buddha’s Footprint. A symbolic representation of the presence of Gautama Buddha.

Practical advice.

  • When you step don't mindlessly drop the foot down, instead feel as if you are
    gliding above the earth. One of my qigong masters over the years never needed to
    have his leather shoes resoled.
  • Use a walking cane if needed. Excessive pressure should never be placed on any of
    the body’s joints or bones in walking qigong. Correctly done walking is one of the
    few exercises that will strengthen the joints and aid in preventing arthritis.
  • Most qigong exercises are best done at the break of dawn, in good weather among
    the civilized nature of a large well cared for and secure park.
  • Qigong walking is best done in groups. But within such groups the Chinese people
    seldom talk to each other in order to maintain a concentrated focus on what they
    are doing. It is after the walking that they usually gather in a tea house and socialize
    with lots of talk, and laughter. Opposite the Boston Common I would gather with
    one such group at a McDonald’s. They didn’t speak that much English and my
    Cantonese was worse, but there was plenty of fun and good feelings and smuggled
    home baked Chinese cookies hidden in purses to go along with the plastic cups of
    coffee and hot water for tea.
  • Knowledgeable Chinese do the walking in circles, usually—but not always—in
    some sort of counter-clockwise way (the left side pointed in to the center of the
    circle). In Chinese communities in the morning you will see this done around small
    ponds, large fountains, or even a tree. From a Southern Daoist lineage that I was
    taught in, this is best done with the people singularly filing after each other in a line
    that curves around in a circle. This is intended to bring peace to the walkers and to
    the world at large.

Disclaimer.

This article is not presented not as a cure for any illness but as a
possible way to help to gain well-being. If any this or any other qigong, or exercise
or activity, hurts or causes discomfort stop doing it and see a medical professional.

Author’s Note.

In this short article I wanted to introduce Guo Lin’s Anti-Cancer
Walking Qigong, but time and space ran out on me. So I plan to write that for next
month’s issue of Chinese Medicine Living. But for now the interested reader could
reference these sites:

Walking Exercise - Persatuan GuoLin QiGong Malaysia
and Guo Lin’s Anti-Cancer Fixed Foot Walking Qigong, by Jim Russo.


Boston Common 2011. Source: author.

Sources & Further Resources.


Applying Lessons from Chinese Medicine and Nutrition for Weight Loss

By Samantha Wiggins

Everyone wants to look good. But all too often, our pursuit of beauty comes at the expense of our health. It's important to remember that looking and feeling good isn’t just about the amount of food and exercise you get every day. It’s also about successfully nourishing every part of your being. That’s exactly what Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is all about. In TCM, food is viewed as medicine — something you can use to nourish and harmonize your mind, body, and spirit.

To the Chinese, the overall well-being of the body is more important than how it looks. In fact, TCM practitioners use the food energetics system to teach patients how to heal their bodies through what they eat. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach, as each person has a particular body constitution that they must eat according to. For example, a person with a body constitution that is dry and warm would benefit from food that can bring moisture to the body. If you want to lose weight the healthy way, here are some lessons you can pick up from TCM:

Follow a Balanced Diet

You hear this advice even in Western medicine, but in TCM, the focus is the spleen and the stomach. It's important to not eat too much, but also not too little. Men's Health Magazine explains that when you gorge yourself with food regularly, your spleen and stomach fail to handle the load. This eventually leads to a whole host of problems — from poor digestion and slow metabolism to food stagnation and internal phlegm. Therefore, it's important to focus on consuming food that can boost your metabolism, promote bowel movement, and prevent fluid retention.


This delicious Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash

Help Your Digestive System

Poor nutrition, coupled with a stressful and hectic lifestyle, is a recipe for weight gain. By getting digestive organs in good form, you would be able to digest food properly. This, in turn, allows you to harness the energy and nutrients that your body needs to prevent energy drain. In order to help your digestive system, eat food that corresponds to the organ that you want to nourish. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation notes that sour foods support the liver, so if you're craving sour food, that might just be your liver asking for an extra boost.

Boost Your Metabolism

Here on the Chinese Medicine Living site, we previously listed the 10 best foods you can eat to stimulate your metabolism. This includes food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which you can find in salmon, herring, and tuna. This can help balance your blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and regulate your metabolism. Green leafy vegetables, garlic, onion, nuts, seeds, green tea, and grapefruit are other examples. If your metabolism is slow, your meals are broken down less efficiently, leading to weight gain. Drinking plenty of water is also important.

If you ever want to try losing weight with the help of modern methods like diet pills, choose the kind that mimic what TCM does — helping the digestive organs work better and ridding it of waste. Many dietary supplements are designed to help cleanse your digestive system. This works to remove toxins and promote faster metabolism. And when your body effectively rids itself of toxic materials, you can achieve a balance that can lead to long-lasting weight loss.

All in all, rebalancing your life and managing your weight shouldn’t be difficult when you follow the techniques of TCM. All it takes is a little discipline and awareness about what your body needs. 

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Featured image photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

 


Tea Tree Oil - Benefits, Uses & Recipes

Tea tree, also known as melaleuca, is an essential oil that comes mainly from the Australian native plant Melaleuca alternifolia. Tea tree oil has been widely used throughout Australia for its medicinal properties for at least the last century and is well-known for its powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties as well as its ability to kill many strains of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Tea tree oil is very versatile - it can be used to make homemade cleaning products, diffused to kill toxic mold that’s growing in your home, and applied topically to heal acne, cuts, and scrapes and treat skin infections. Tea tree’s natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions make it one of the most beneficial essential oils for health and healing making it a powerful addition to your medicine cabinet.

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that I have been using for many years in my home and in my clinic. Now that I live in the tropics, with its warm, damp climate, tea tree oil is an essential part of my treatment regimen. I see a lot of fungal infections, skin irritations, and upper respiratory tract infections which tend to happen when the seasons change. A little tea tree oil on some ringworm, a few drops onto nail fungus, putting some in the diffuser to kill mold in your home or adding a few drops to boiling water and inhaling the vapors to kill a cold or flu are only some of the ways you can use this versatile, healing oil. Here are some tried and true recipes that you can use at home.

Ways You Can Use Tea Tree Oil

Topically

Tea tree oil can be applied to the skin topically, but you should always dilute it with a carrier oil (like coconut oil) in a 1:1 ratio before applying it except when using it to treat nail fungus when it can be applied directly without diluting it.

Aromatically

You can diffuse tea tree oil throughout your home using an oil diffuser. You can also directly inhale the oil by sniffing it right out of the bottle.

DO NOT TAKE INTERNALLY

Tea tree oil is NOT for Internal Use. Tea tree oil can be poisonous if swallowed and should NOT be taken by mouth. If you are using tea tree for bad breath or oral health, make sure you spit it out afterward to prevent potential side effects.

Tea Tree Oil Recipes

Photo by Frank Vex on Unsplash

NAIL FUNGUS

Put 2–5 drops of undiluted tea tree oil on the nail, around cuticles and in between the nail and the toe depending on where the fungus is the most severe.

RINGWORM

Apply 3-5 drops on the affected area either directly or with a cotton ball a couple of times a day until the ringworm is gone (this can take a couple of weeks to a couple of months).

WARTS

Put a few drops of tea tree oil directly on the area for 30 days, once or twice daily.

MOLD

Tea tree oil can be diffused to kill toxic mold that is growing in your home or work space. Add 5 drops to a diffuser and run throughout the day/night.

Laundry - A few drops can be added to your wash to kill mold on fabrics.

Mold & Mildew on clothes - Mix apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil and spray on the mold; place outside to sun-dry. Also, if you forgot to put the clothes in the dryer, run again with tea tree oil to remove mold and mildew.

Mold Spray - Add a teaspoon to a spray bottle filled with water to spray it onto shower curtains, and into your laundry machine, dishwasher or toilet to kill off mold and other bacteria.

COLDS & FLU, COUGH, BRONCHITIS, AND UPPER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS

Put 5 drops of tea tree oil in a large metal or glass bowl. Boil a kettle and add boiling water (at least 4 cups) to the bowl. Place your face over the bowl and cover your head and the bowl with a towel so that the steam does not escape. Breathe deeply for 20 minutes.

LAUNDRY FRESHENER


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Add a teaspoon of tea tree oil to very dirty wash and deodorize both your wash and washing machine at the same time.

ACNE TREATMENT

Studies show that tea tree oil is as effective as the commercially used benzoyl peroxide to reduce acne because of its antibacterial and antimicrobial compounds which act effectively against the bacteria that cause acne breakouts. Tea tree oil acts to unblock the sebaceous glands, unclogging pores resulting in less acne.

Acne Face Wash - Mix five drops of pure tea tree essential oil with two teaspoons of raw honey. Rub the mixture on your face, leave it on for one minute, and rinse it off with warm water. You can also use tea tree oil as a spot treatment for acne - just mix it with a little carrier oil like coconut or almond and dab a drop or two on the area of concern.

SKIN - CUTS & SCRAPES

Works as an antiseptic on small cuts and scrapes. Apply a drop or 2 to a cotton ball and apply to skin.

NATURAL ALL PURPOSE CLEANERS

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

1. Fill a glass spray bottle with 1-2 teaspoons of tea tree oil and the rest of the bottle with water.

2. In a 1-quart spray bottle, combine the 1/2 cup white vinegar, 3 cups water, and 1 teaspoon tea tree oil and shake well. You can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the mix if you’d prefer a scented cleaner.

3. In a spray bottle, mix 5–10 drops of tea tree with water, vinegar and 5–10 drops of lemon essential oil. Use it on your kitchen counters, appliances, shower, toilet, and sinks.

NATURAL TOOTHPASTE

Add a few drops of tea tree oil to your regular toothpaste, or, mix a few drops of tea tree oil with coconut oil and baking soda for an excellent homemade toothpaste.

INSECT REPELLENT

Add 2–5 drops of tea tree oil to a spray bottle filled halfway with water and spray it on your skin, or combine 2–5 drops of tea tree with a teaspoon of coconut oil and rub it into your skin before going outside. If you do get a bug bite, add 2–3 drops of tea tree to a clean cotton ball and apply it to the affected area.

LICE PREVENTION

To prevent lice naturally add a few drops to your shampoo. Also, add a little tea tree oil to a small spray bottle with water, and spray your child’s hair before school every morning.

DEODORANT

Mix a few drops with coconut oil and baking soda.

FLEAS & TICKS

Add a few drops in your pets’ crates or beds to keep fleas and ticks away. Add a few drops onto the flea or tick and it will fall off.

**PRECAUTIONS

Keep tea tree oil away from your eyes, contact lenses, inner nose and sensitive parts of your skin. When using tea tree oil topically keep the concentration at 5–10 percent tea tree oil to other liquids. Always test it on skin before applying a treatment to make sure you are not allergic or it is not too strong. Be careful using with children, always test on their skin first when using topically and make sure they do not get any in their eyes.


Healing Acne Holistically With Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Sally Perkins

Acne is the most common skin disease in the United States — 50 million Americans experience breakouts each year which can continue into your 30’s and 40’s, the American Academy of Dermatology reports. While most of us turn to skincare or makeup to externally treat acne, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) addresses the underlying root causes. TCM recognizes acne as typically the result of excess internal heat caused by imbalances in the body. Treatment involves herbal formulas targeted to specific skin types, as well as dietary changes which eliminate inflammatory foods. In most cases, acne improves in as little as one month but takes roughly six months to disappear completely.

Excess Internal Heat


This awesome photo by Ryan Cryar on Unsplash

In Chinese medicine, acne is primarily caused by excess internal heat. Excess heat builds up in the body when it’s under constant stress or hormonally imbalanced. This acne-causing internal heat is generated in the lungs (which control the skin), intestines, menstrual system, and by specific toxins in the body. Often, however, acne doesn’t just originate from one place; there can be multiple influences involved. For example, facial acne can result from a block in both the lungs and stomach.

The Problem of Stagnation

Chinese medicine also recognizes stagnation (or impaired blood circulation) as a root cause of acne. If stagnation is the reason for your acne, your spots may be sore, stubborn, deep red, or even purple. You may also breakout before your period and experience painful menstrual cramps. Alternatively, fluids in the body can stagnate and result in phlegm. Cystic acne is often a result of phlegm stagnation (as well as blood stagnation).

Clean Diet for Clear Skin


This yummy photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

TCM recommends avoiding inflammatory foods — particularly greasy, spicy, and damp foods — as they heat up your blood, which results in breaks outs. Don’t eat anything too hot or cold in temperature, either. Sticking to room temperature food will prevent contributing to excess internal heat. Your body needs to be relaxed in order to function optimally, rather than devoting its energy to digestion. Reducing overall stress also helps calm the body and clear the skin. Low cortisol levels help your skin stay clear and blemish-free.

Restoring the Body with Herbs

Herbs are essential for stabilizing the body. Traditional Chinese medicine treatment includes herbal mixtures which calm the body, cool the blood, boost circulation, and detox the lungs. Adaptogens are used to balance hormones, soothe the nervous system, and improve digestion — with the result of beating acne and calming irritated skin. The specific herbs used depends on your skin type and can be determined by your dermatologist.

Unlike Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. Dermatologists tailor treatment to suit each specific case with the aim of cooling excess internal heat, cleansing and detoxifying the body and externally healing the skin. Your dermatologist will work with you to find natural, effective, and holistic treatments to keep your skin healthy and acne at bay for life.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash


The Qigong Corner - 1: The Basics

By John Voigt

Qi.

A general meaning of this word is “life energy,” and the meaning of Gong relates
to “work,” “cultivation,” and “accomplishment.” Qi is pronounced chee with a fast
descending soft (close to she ) sound. In Cantonese, a language often spoken by
more older people from southern China, it sounds like “hay,” so we have hay gong.
The older English spelling is “chi kung.”

Feel the Qi.

Qi manifests in many ways, one is the flow of bio-electricity in our body.
It is relatively easy to physically experience this by doing the following exercise: Rub
your hands together, then stretch and wiggle your fingers. Tap your fingertips
together, and tap them on each palm. Wiggle your fingers again. Now pretend you
are holding a ball approximately a foot and a half in circumference. Inhale and feel
this imaginary ball expand. As you exhale squeeze it back to its original size.  Do this
for a few minutes or until you feel your palms and fingertips grow warm—or even
better hot—with the energy of life. You are experiencing a manifestation of the
reality of qi, of life force, of bio-energy.

Qigong.

Its origins are Chinese and many millions of Chinese people practice it daily
throughout the world in any number of ways; most often with gentle physical
movements, stretches, meditations, and mentally focused visualizations. The term
actually relates to the harmonious interplay of yin and yang energies in the body:
specifically in the way we hold our bodies and move, the way we breathe which
effects internal energy, and what we have in our minds. Its repeated practice helps
bring about mental, physical, and spiritual well-being and healing.
Stretching is a good example of body work, and you don’t need a park in Beijing to
see thousands of people doing it, just go to a baseball park during a game and take
part in the seventh inning stretch. If there is space for it after the stretching walk
about some. It all helps get the qi moving.

Or do as so many people do, upon awakening in the morning get out of bed and take
several deep breaths—(one definition of qigong is “breath work”)—as you stretch
your hands and arms upwards and pay attention to the way it feels. As with most
qigong this is best done in the morning in a park with people all about doing various
qigong or tai chi (actually the word is taijiquan) or other forms of physical health
regimes.

It is a simple step to see the resemblance of this kind of stretching to a qigong
master doing the first movement of the most popular worldwide qigong form, the
Standing Eight Pieces of Brocade” (Baduanjin). The stretch is called “Holding Up
The Heavens” and it is said to regulate the passage of qi in the body and mind, and
tone and promote healing in the functions of the body’s inner organs.

Take a look at a grandmaster doing it on YouTube:
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. Standing Eight Pieces of Brocade. [it runs from 0:17 to 3:26].
More about Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming here

I suggest after you see Dr. Yang in action, you do some similar stretches
immediately. Five of them is enough. And take it easy: as you can see from the video,
qigong does not subscribe to the “No Pain No Gain” school of thought. If fact if there
is any pain stop doing it immediately and go see a health professional.
You now have an idea, and more importantly a physical experience, of what qi and
qigong are. Practice these or any gentle stretches in the morning as you breathe
calmly, smoothly, fully and gently into the lower abdomen.

Don’t do any qigong as if were a forced prison exercise drill, but rather as if you are
a young child having fun playing. And very important: keep noticing how the energy
feels inside of you. That way you become cognizant of the movement of the qi. And
don’t forget to smile. Smiling always helps increase the flow of this vital qi.

For the next issue of Chinese Medical Living we will go to a park near Boston’s
Chinatown and join the elders in the great healing exercise of social walking, and
learn about a simple walking regime that helps in the healing of cancer. If you wish
to learn something about that right now, on your browser explore this name, Guo
Lin and her walking qigong.

Qi has many appearances and definitions. One is “universal
consciousness.” Here is a painting by visionary artist and distance viewer
Ingo Swann titled “Cosmic Intelligence” which is an artistic depiction of such Qi.

Author with painting at the American Visionary Art Museum,
http://www.avam.org/ Baltimore, June 2018

Note: For more about Qi and Qigong go to qi-encyclopedia.com

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John Voigt is a regular contributor to Chinese Medicine Living - you may read his bio here.


Stages in a Woman's Life According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

One of the reasons that I fell in love with Chinese Medicine was the beautiful way that it sees the body, health - and when expanded outwards - everything in existence. It is simply a way of looking at things that, to me, makes perfect sense and resonates deeply and profoundly.

Women's medicine is the way that I came to Chinese Medicine - I found it when Western medicine was not able to help me. Just one session with my wonderful acupuncturist and I was left with an overwhelming feeling that this system was what medicine was supposed to be. At its foundation was true healing, empowered by the individual and facilitated by the practitioner.

The Concept of Jing

Jing is a concept that is unique to Chinese Medicine and is sometimes difficult to explain. Jing is considered to be one of the three treasures in Chinese Medicine. Jing, Qi, and Shen comprise the three treasures. Jing is defined as the source of our life, health, and longevity. Qi is like our life force - and the force that animates all living things. Shen is the spirit and is closely associated with the heart and "the mind" in Chinese Medicine. All three treasures must be balanced for us to be functioning at an optimum state of health and wellbeing.

The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine is one of the oldest medical textbooks on earth and was written around 240 BCE. It is in this text that the cycles of women and men are discussed. Women grow and mature in seven-year cycles and men in eight-year cycles.

Cycles for Women in Chinese Medicine

Women - 7 Year Cycles

7 years old

A woman’s kidney energy becomes abundant, teeth change and hair grows strong.

Kidney is a special term in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It not only has the function of controlling the urinary system, but also has a very important role – control the developing, growing, and reproduction. In terms of reproduction, you can think Kidney as a “Small Kidney”- the ovaries or testis.

At the age of 7, a woman’s reproductive system starts to develop.

14 years old

Her menstruation appears as the Ren meridian (the sea of Yin) flows and the Qi and blood in the Chong meridian (the sea of blood) becomes abundant, she can have children.

At the age of 14, her menstruation appears and she is able to have a child. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the age of menarche is one important factor to help make a diagnosis. If menarche is later than 14 years old, it often indicates lower fertility energy.

21 years old

Her kidney energy is balanced, her adult teeth become completely developed and her body grows to full height.

A woman’s energy, especially fertility energy is full at the age of 21.

28 years old

Vital energy and blood are abundant, her bones and muscles are strong, her hair grows to full length and her body is in optimal condition.

At the age of 28, a women’s fertile energy reaches its peak. This is considered the best age for her to have children.

35 years old

Her peak condition declines gradually. Her energy in the yang ming meridian declines. Her face starts to wither and her hair starts to fall out.

From 35 year old, she starts to have wrinkles on her face, and her overall energy and fertility start to decline. She is still however, able to have children.

42 year old

The three Yang channels - Tai Yang, Yang Mind, Shao Yang - energy begins to decline. Her face wanes and her hair begins to turn white.

From the age of 42, her physical energy and fertility energy declines and it becomes more difficult to conceive.

49 years old

The Ren meridian (Conception Vessel) and Chong meridian vital energy declines, her menstruation dries up, her physique turns old and feeble and she is no longer able to conceive.

From the 7-year-life cycle, we can see that, according to Chinese Medicine, a good age for a woman to have children is from 21 to 35, and the best age is around 28 years old when her energies are at their "peak".

These cycles are still relevant in diagnosing and treating women's health issues in the context of Chinese Medicine. These stages are of course just a guideline, but they are immensely helpful in understanding - in a general way - how men and women move through their lives and what strengths, needs and imbalances they may face in different stages. Chinese Medicine is incredibly complex and has a vast body of knowledge that has been collected over thousands of years, and this is why it is still able to treat the health problems that people in our modern world face.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Thomas Hafeneth on Unsplash


Your Quick Guide to Personal Happiness - 5 Happiness Habits

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

For many years I have been fascinated by the concept of happiness. Part of my fascination was personal, and the other was professional. I was seeing so many patients who were deeply unhappy and the interesting thing to me was that when I asked them what would make them happy, most of them had no idea. For many, it seemed to be the first time they had given the idea any thought at all. So, what is happiness? And why is it so elusive?

What is Happiness?

For something that we all seem to be after, happiness seems to be largely misunderstood and pretty difficult to come by for a lot of people. And when it comes to a definition of happiness, well I imagine that would be very different depending on who you asked. For our purposes, I will define it as a general feeling of well-being and joy about the totality of your life - not necessarily the details as those will be constantly fluctuating, but a general sense of wellbeing about your existence. If I were to ask you what would it take for you to be happy? Maybe a better question is - what does your life look like where you imagine your happiest self? This is an interesting intellectual exercise for sure, and one I often ask my patients to do to help them clarify what this scenario would look like for them.

In my experience, I see what happiness isn't. It is not something that can be acquired, some kind of external thing that one must chase after and get a hold of, never letting go. External things don't give you happiness, at least not a happiness that is grounded, meaningful and lasting. The way to happiness is within. And I think this is one of the reasons that we as a species, are largely so unhappy right now. We are taught, from a very young age, to seek everything we need in our lives - "out there". All the things we need to be complete, happy beings are out there in the external world. Good education, a better job, good relationship, nice house, fancy car - and so forth. These seem to be the benchmarks for success and happiness for many of us. But this is changing. There is a movement of young people growing up now who realize that those things often have nothing to do with true happiness and are seeking happiness, fulfillment, and connectedness within. And that is where we will all find it. There has been an explosion of interest in things like yoga, meditation, ayahuasca, etc... to more deeply understand ourselves and our world.

The Chinese Medicine Angle

In Chinese medicine, our ability to feel joy is seen to be an expression of our heart energies. But joy is only one part of overall happiness. In Chinese medicine, how you feel is an important part of your health. Each of the organs has an emotion associated with it to help determine which organ (or emotion) might be out of balance at any one time. If you are overwhelmed by anger and frustration, the liver is the culprit, if sadness is predominant then the lungs are to blame, or if fear and anxieties are making life uncomfortable then we must look at the kidneys for their role in these feelings. I believe that for a feeling of overall happiness and wellbeing that so many of us are striving for is to be achieved, it is balance that we must seek. And there is no better system to teach us to balance ourselves, our bodies, our emotions and our spirits, than Chinese medicine.

The emotions are a more ephemeral and therefore often more difficult thing to contend with, especially in our society with its emphasis on the physical and tangible especially when it comes to health and healing. Because of this, tools we can use to help us manage difficult emotional states or patterns are difficult to come by. Thankfully, Chinese medicine offers many ways in which we can both identify as well as manage and resolve our emotional hardships. Each organ's energies are at their peak in a specific season, so taking care of both the organ, its corresponding emotion and changing our behaviours depending on the time of year are some of the ways we can help to keep ourselves balanced. Changing the foods that we eat according to the seasons and our physical predispositions is another good way to stay in harmony, as well as some basic things like listening to our bodies - as they tend to tell us in subtle ways when something is wrong - taking care of ourselves on all levels, being kind, loving and nurturing to ourselves and others and working on self-awareness is especially important when it comes to dealing with emotions. So much of our demons and the things that hurt us are unknown to us. If we are really willing to do the work to discover our hurts and sorrows, that is the first step in shining a light on them and being able to process them and letting them go.

5 Happiness Habits

Below are some of the most powerful habits that, if you incorporate them into your life, will help you to have a happier experience and feel more joyful overall.

Gratitude

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Some interesting studies have taught us that so much of our ability to feel happiness is in our attitude. Many highly spiritual beings know this too. One way that we can really help to change our attitudes so that we may attract more positivity into our lives is by being grateful. Taking some time every day to focus on the things that you are grateful for, no matter how big or small, will help to literally rewire your brain, making it easier to think about and feel those feelings of gratitude in the future. A helpful exercise that will help you to literally rewire your brain (plasticity) is to take time every day to think of three things that you are grateful for. In doing this, your brain starts to retain the pattern of scanning the world not for negative things, but positive ones, helping to keep you in a state of positivity.

Positivity


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Scientific studies have shown that the brain works better when we are in a state of positivity giving us a happiness advantage. Here are some statistics from Shawn Achor's TED talk (which is embedded below):

  • When we are in a positive state the brain performs better in terms of intelligence, creativity and our energy increases
  • Positive brains are 31% more productive than brains that are negative, neutral or stressed
  • When we are positive, our brains are 37% better at sales
  • When in a positive state, doctors are 31% faster and more accurate at coming up with correct diagnosis

An activity to help you to become more positive is to journal about one positive thing that happened to you (or that you witnessed) that day. Writing about the experience allows your brain to relive it, and releases powerful hormones like dopamine, which not only makes us feel good, but also turns on all the learning centres in the brain.

Conscious Acts of Kindness

Another exercise that you can work into your daily routine is to reach out to one person in your social network and tell them that you appreciate them and why. This only compounds the exercise above and will help not only you to feel grateful, but also spread the goodness around by making the person or people you reach out to feel grateful as well.

Meditation

Meditation has so many benefits to our health and wellbeing, that it is something I would recommend for absolutely everyone, especially living in our hectic culture. Meditation allows us to slow down, relax and reconnect with ourselves in a way that many of us have forgotten. Giving that time to yourself as a way to pull yourself out of the chaos that often predominates modern life and to just sit and listen has so many positive effects that will not only make you feel better, they will ripple out into every aspect of your life and ultimately benefit not only you, but the people around you.

Self Awareness

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From the years of treating patients, one of the things that I really believe is a huge contributor to our physical health as well as our mental health is dealing with our demons. I use the word demons, because that is what they can become, haunting us and making us miserable. Everyone has difficult, painful and traumatic experiences in their lives. But the way to have a happy life I believe is not to wish for an easy existence, but to learn how to handle difficulties when they arise so that they can be processed appropriately and let go so that they do not become demons from our past that haunt us in our present.

This ability to really look at ourselves and self reflect is not easy, and this important work is not something that is taught to us as children in schools, so finding a way to work through these difficult experiences can be daunting. The tools that will work will not be the same for everyone, but this is some of the most important work we can do in our lives and the work that will help us to be happier beings and enjoy our time on this beautiful planet.

 

Sources

This excellent (and hilarious) video from Shawn Achor speaking at TED about happiness and our brains.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M

 


Keeping Cool this Summer with Chinese Medicine

By John Voigt

Keeping Cool

Here are some techniques from Traditional Chinese medicine to help beat the summer heat.  (If you have a fever, or other health problems see a professional medical practitioner.)

First some common sense suggestions: drink a lot of water, keep cool.  Do your body a favor and stay in the shade. Nothing beats a pleasant stroll in a forest (just have the bug repellant on). If you must be in the sun cover yourself as much as you can. Watch non-human animals for cues on what you should be doing.


Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Food. 

Never put icy cold things in your mouth.  Avoid lamb, fatty red meat, alcohol, tobacco, garlic, onion, scallion, and coffee as these are warming in Chinese Medicine.  Eat less food and drink, drink lots of room temperature fluids--except never any sugared juice drinks, or sodas.   Replace any lost salt … lost from heavy sweating.

To reinforce yin, and clear heat: Watermelon,  Mung beans.


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Also: Apple, Banana, Crab,  Mango, Pears, Pineapple, Tofu.

Try drinking mint, chamomile, chrysanthemum teas; and also a weak green tea with a touch of lemon and honey. These are cooling to the body and build yin.


Photo by Anda Ambrosini on Unsplash

Chinese Herbs

American Ginseng. 


This image from ernestherbal.com

Check with a health professional knowledgeable about Chinese herbs if you have health issues.  Dosage: Usually American Ginseng extract is about 200 mg per day containing at least 4 to 7% ginsenosides. 0.5 to 2 g of dry root per day on a short-term basis, with the ginseng taken in tea form or chewed. Capsule formulas are generally prescribed in a dosage of 100 to 600 mg per day, usually in divided doses.  [from] <http://www.online-health-care.com/herbal-medicines>.

Internal Qigong.   

In the cycle of Seasons, this is the time to prepare for winter.  Sit in meditation and visualize it is winter all around you. Take the hot yang energy on the surface of your body and with your mind and breath direct and guide this heat into the energy storage battery in your lower abdomen, the Dantian.  Do from five to fifteen minutes.

Self Acupressure.

  • Kidney 1 (Yong-quan)
  • Kidney 2 (Ran-gu)
  • Bladder 40 (Weizhong)

Kidney 1 is one of the most powerful points in the body and is located between the balls of the foot in the depression. It is a very strong point, so be gentle. It is excellent for building yin and cooling the body as well as being a powerful tonification point for the entire body.
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash 

Kidney 2 is located on the inside (medial) aspect of the foot along the border of the red and white skin (where the skin transitions from the soft part on the top of your foot to the tougher type of skin you have on the bottom of your foot.)
Image from wanderingdawn.com

This point is located behind the knees at the midpoint of the crease. It is very sensitive, so always be gentle.

Gently press and massage the  Kidney 1, and 2 points, then the Bladder-40 points for about three to five minutes (or longer). 

Putting ice on the Bladder 40 wěizhōng points works to cool you down too.

External Qigong.

With fingers pointed down and knuckles facing each other almost touching, raise hands up center front -- go above head and open palms up to the heavens. With palms facing downward,  fingertips pointed at each other,  bring hands down the center line,. Repeat six times. Softly sound “Sheee.” (Or just hear it in your head.)  This harmonizes the body’s organ functions, the “Triple Burner".

john.voigt@comcast.net


Summer Recipe to Clear Heat & Decrease Fire

By Unfamiliar China

Clear Heat and Decrease Fire

Pressure, insomnia, prolonged exposure to a blowing air conditioner, and eating out too frequently can all lead to excessive internal heat. Excessive internal heat can be alleviated by regulating one’s diet. One should eat an appropriate ratio of meat and vegetables, and eat more fruits and vegetables that clear heat and drain fire. Enriching the yin helps decrease fire and eradicate dryness-heat. This Pork and Lotus Seed Soup recipe helps with just that!

Pork and Lotus Seed Soup

Preparation Time: 32 min.
Serves: 2

Ingredients

7.05 oz. (200 grams) lean pork
1.41 oz. (40 grams) lotus seed
1.76 oz. (50 grams) carrots
0.52 oz. (15 grams) dang shen (Codonopsis pilosula)

Seasoning

½ tsp. (2 grams) salt
½ tsp. (2 grams) chicken bouillon
a dash of ground pepper

Preparation

  • Cut washed carrot into small chunks. Cut washed pork into slices.
  • Add water to casserole dish. Add prepared lotus seeds, dang shen (Codonopsis pilosula), carrots, and pork. Cook over low heat for 30 min.
  • Mix in salt, chicken bouillon, and ground pepper to taste.
  • Turn off heat. Scoop out into bowls and serve.

Reminder

If the lotus seeds are very white, they may have been artificially bleached. It is best not to buy this kind of lotus seed.


Photo by Justin Lim on Unsplash

**Beautiful featured image photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash


What are Superfoods and Why Should I Care About Them?

By Dr. Kevin Curran of EthnoHerbalist

Superfoods are nutrient-rich foods that deliver multiple benefits to our health and well-being.
Each superfood is different, but in general, these foods contain some combination of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other beneficial phytonutrients.

At the EthnoHerbalist, we are interested in the cultural history and biology of effective medicinal plants. So, as you move through my list, you will also learn a bit about the cultural history of each superfood.

Below is an excerpt of my alphabetical list of superfoods, click here for the full list.

Açai

Açai is a small purple berry from the rainforests of South America.
Indigenous tribes living in the Amazon basin have eaten these berries for
thousands of years. The Shuar tribe, a group native to Ecuador and Peru,
used the açai berry for medicinal purposes (immune strength, vitality). We
now know that these bright colored fruits contain lots of powerful
antioxidant pigment molecules called anthocyanins. Antioxidants have
been researched in regards to fighting certain cancers, reducing
cholesterol and heart diseases. Açai also contains oleic acid, the same
healthy fat that’s found in olive oil. Try buying unsweetened açai and
working the material into a fruit smoothie.

Almonds


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Almonds have always been highly regarded by humans. In ancient Egypt,
almonds were a prized ingredient in breads served to the Pharaohs.
Explorers transported this nut along theSilk Road, from Asia into the
Europe. Soon, almonds were flourishing amidst the Mediterranean
climates of Spain and Italy. In the 1700s, Spanish missionaries
introduced almonds into California. Today, almonds are a multi-billion
dollar business in California.
In the nut world, almonds are about as superfood as it gets. They offer
generous amounts of nutrient per serving. Almonds are especially high in
protein, fiber, B vitamins, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin E, calcium, iron,
magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, thiamine, choline, and potassium. They’re
also enriched with dietary fiber and various polyunsaturated fats that
may help lower LDL cholesterol. Try switching from peanut butter to
almond butter. It’s only a few bucks more per jar and you’re getting a
much more nutritious nut.

Amaranth

Amaranth has been used as a food source for about 8,000 years. The
Aztec people of ancient Mexico ate this plant often and even incorporated
amaranth into their religious ceremonies. It’s now regarded as a
superfood grain. Amaranth is high in protein and delivers a lot of energy
per serving. More importantly for people with gluten intolerance,
amaranth is one of the gluten-free grains.
Amaranth is also high in lysine, which is an amino acid often missing from
other popular grains.

Avocado

Avocados are the gift that keep on giving. You can eat them right out of
their skin or blend them into guacamole. The superfood is native to

central Mexico and have been enjoyed in this region for the past 10,000
years. The word avocado originates from the Aztec word for
testicle, ahuacatl. Clearly, these ancient Mexicans were referencing the
oblong, pear-shape of the fruit. A cup of avocado supplies you with high
amounts of fiber, protein, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, and
potassium. A clinical study found that eating avocados can improve the
lipid profile of both healthy people and people with high cholesterol levels.

Beets


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Beets are the large root from the beet plant, Beta vulgaris. The original
beet, called wild seabeet, grew natively along the Indian coastline. Upon
discovering its thick edible roots, many cultures began domesticating the
beet throughout the Middle East. This purple superfood vegetable is
packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help strengthen our
body. In addition, preliminary research indicates that beetroot juice can
lower blood pressure in hypertensive animals. This opens the possibility
that beets can help people battle cardiovascular diseases.

Click here to see my entire alphabetical list of superfoods.

Question:
What is so special about garlic and broccoli and colorful fruits and veggies?
Answer:
Phytochemicals

To put it simply, phytochemicals are chemicals that are naturally
produced in plants. The prefix "phyto" means plant.
Phytochemicals are a collection of different chemical compounds that
can deliver all sorts of health benefits to the humans that eat
these plants.

You may have heard of some of these chemical groups:
 carotenoids
 flavonoids
 phytosterols
 fiber


Photo by Heather Seymour on Unsplash

Garlic is packed with allicin.
Broccoli and the other cruciferous veggies are enriched with glucosinolates.
Carotenoids and flavonoids are present in many of the colorful fruits and
veggies - including carrots, grapes, and blueberries.


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These phytochemicals are not as well known as the vitamins and minerals
that are also found in plants. We are just starting to figure out the
various ways phytochemicals interact with our body. Recent studies
demonstrate that phytochemicals offer multiple health benefits to our
body:

 antioxidant activity
 anti-inflammatory
 anti-diabetic
 lower LDL cholesterol

I think this is an exciting time in nutrition science. We are starting to
sort out all the ways phytochemicals interact with our own cell biology and physiology.
To learn more, read this article I just wrote. I summarize the actions of the main phytochemical groups.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Delicious featured image photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash