Mustard Greens & Pork Soup Recipe

By NourishU

Chinese Medicine Nutrition & The Summer Season

The excessive heat and humidity in summer can affect our health in many ways. It can cause the loss of body fluid and energy with profuse perspiration and can weaken our appetite. Drinking too much fluid to fight summer heat can dilute digestive enzymes which can lead to indigestion.

Extreme heat can lead to heat stroke with symptoms such as fainting, spasm, and fatigue. It is important not to over-expose oneself to the immense heat. Drinking excessive ice cold drinks can further damage the spleen system and cause food and energy stagnation. Eating seasonal vegetables such as winter melon and citrus fruits to quench thirst, to promote digestion and to expel heat and dampness is most beneficial to health. It is also important to eat food that can improve appetite, promote digestion and benefit spleen functions. Oily and heavy meat dishes should be avoided because they will cause indigestion.

Potassium

Potassium is the most important mineral of all which is necessary for good health. Potassium's main function is to promote cell tissue and growth. Our body needs to replace dead cells and tissue every day. There is no better source of potassium than vinegar---particularly natural apple cider vinegar. It is probably the best and cheapest agent to detoxify our body. As such, it should be considered as a critical component to the fountain of youth!

In summer months: add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar to a quart of water. Drink this on a hot summer day, especially before working out. Your body will feel very clean. In winter months: 2 TBLS of apple cider vinegar in a mug filled with hot water 3 times a day.

Pear

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

Eating pear after a meal/BBQ.

The Seoul National University of Medicine Division of Preventive Medicine research team led by Professor Yang Meixi in September 2010 released a report saying that eating a pear after a meal can discharge a lot of carcinogenic substances accumulated in the human body.

The survey results indicate that smoking or eating grilled & roasted meat, the carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the body will be significantly lower after eating a pear. The result of the findings indicated that heated pear juice contains a lot more anti-cancer substances - Polyphenol.

Mustard Greens & Pork Soup Recipe

 

This delicious image by INRTracker.com

SYMPTOMS:

Slight internal heat syndrome with symptoms such as slight constipation, red eyes, and bad breath.

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS:

Clears internal heat and relieves constipation.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Mustard Greens  芥菜 -  300 gm
  • Lean Pork -  180gm
  • Ginger – 2 slices

1.   Wash mustard greens and cut into pieces.

2.   Rinse pork and cut into thin pieces, season (a little sugar, salt, pepper, cornstarch and sesame oil) and set aside.

3.   Boil about 8 cups of water in a soup pot and put in mustard greens and ginger to cook for about 30 minutes over medium heat. Add pork and cook for another 6 or 7 minutes and serve.

USAGE:

No restrictions.


Beautiful featured image photo by Masaaki Komori on Unsplash



How Ginko Biloba Can Enhance Memory in Chinese Medicine

By freelance writer Sally Perkins

Around 1.6 million U.S adults use the herb ginkgo biloba which can help with various ailments, including memory loss. Experiencing memory loss may well set off alarm bells, but according to the National Institute on Aging, it is often a reversible condition. Although Alzheimer’s may be the first conclusion that people jump to, there are actually a variety of causes which can occur at any age and recognizing what the root of the issue is and addressing it could also help to alleviate the memory loss. Chinese medicines, such as ginkgo biloba, can benefit brain function through improved circulation to the brain and can be used in addition to other healing practices such as targeting acupuncture points for better memory.

Understanding the Causes of Memory Loss

Memory loss tends to occur naturally with age but it is not necessarily only a symptom of getting older. In fact, it often occurs in much younger people as well and once the root of what is causing it has been fixed, the problem of the memory loss is often also solved. Poor sleep and feeling fatigued can result in your brain not operating on all cylinders and lead to memory complaints. If you are taking several medications at the same time, that could also contribute to feelings of confusion and forgetfulness.

Another underlying health problem that could be the cause of memory loss is a nutritional deficiency. Checking the condition of your cognitive function can be done online with an IQ test. It is important to be aware of what is normal for you and not taking it as a personal criticism when people close to you make observations about your slower than usual recall or forgetfulness. 

Ginko Biloba leaf / Photo by Buzo Jesús on Unsplash

Ginkgo Biloba to Improve Memory

There are many different herbs that are used in Chinese medicine that can be used to treat all manner of ailments. However, ginkgo biloba is the most popular for improved cognitive function. The way it works is by dilating the blood vessels that nourish the brain, which increases the flow of blood to the neural tissue.

Ginkgo biloba improves concentration and cognitive function through increased blood circulation to the brain alongside a greater circulation of oxygen, helping to inhibit neural cell damage. It is suggested that a dosage of 120 to 240mg per day in two or three divided doses can help with memory impairment and that it ought to be taken along with meals so as not to upset your stomach.

Chinese medicine has evolved over thousands of years and is now commonly referred to in the United States as a form of complementary health practice. Memory loss can be attributed to a great many causes so panic need not be your immediate reaction since it is often treatable. Using Chinese medicine, such as ginkgo biloba, allows you to use natural methods to treat memory loss.

Featured image from vititaal.nl


Osteoporosis: Western & Eastern Medicine

Osteoporosis in Western Medicine

By The National Council for Aging Care

Are you one of the 44 million people at risk for Osteoporosis?

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, more than 44 million Americans aged 50 and older either have or face the threat of developing osteoporosis. Projections put this number at more than 60 million by 2020. Across the world, a fracture due to osteoporosis happens about once every three seconds, causing nearly 9 million fractures—just from stress being put on weak bones.

Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease that causes the loss of bone mass and bone tissue.

There are little to no symptoms of the disease, so easily breaking a bone may be the first sign that you have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis can develop from a wide range of reasons, including:
• Menopause
• Cancer
• Poor diet
• Autoimmune Disorders
• Medications
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Tobacco use
• Inactive lifestyle (not regularly exercising)
• Diet lacking in vitamin C and vitamin D

Continue reading to discover the symptoms, prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Defined: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments - By The National Council For Aging

Osteoporosis in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Osteoporosis is the gradual loss of bone density that causes the bones to become brittle, thus increasing the risk of fracture. Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis because of the steady loss of estrogen after menopause. There are some risk factors that contribute to your chances of developing osteoporosis and they are:

  • Age – bone density decreases naturally as we age
  • Heredity and genetics – osteoporosis tends to run in families
  • Being thin with fine bones increases your risk
  • A diet high in sodium
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Stress
  • Dieting
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Excess sugar intake
  • Certain medications such as the birth control pill and drugs for hypothyroidism weaken bones
  • Lack of exercise – weight bearing exercises cause the body to lay down new bone, increasing bone mass
  • A diet lacking in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D
  • Too much animal protein in the diet can leach calcium from the bones
  • If you have broken many bones in your adult life, you are more susceptible

Although some of these risk factors cannot be avoided, many can and things like diet and exercise are vital to the health of your bones. Eating a diet high in calcium and balancing that with adequate levels of vitamin D which is responsible for the absorption of calcium, are important for the strength and density of bones. Most people associate dairy products with foods high in calcium, but for those who prefer not to eat dairy, there are many foods that are extremely high in calcium. Here is a list of non dairy sources of calcium.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

Non Dairy Sources of Calcium

  • Tofu
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Sesame seeds (ground or pulverized for better absorption)
  • Tapioca
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Bok Choy
  • White beans
  • Figs
  • Black eyed peas
  • Broccoli
  • Sardines with the bones
  • Seaweed
  • Turnip greens
  • Oranges

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

Vitamin D & Calcium Absorption

Getting enough vitamin D is crucial to absorption of calcium. Common wisdom says that 30 minutes of sunshine a day is adequate for the average adult. Note that people with a diet high in animal proteins will cause calcium to be absorbed poorly, so if you are trying to build up calcium and strengthen bones, consider limiting your intake of animal proteins. It is also important to note that if we are not getting enough calcium in the diet, the body will take the calcium it needs from the bones, so make sure you are getting enough! The recommended daily amount is between 800 milligrams – 1200 milligrams for lactating women.

Fosamax and Boniva

Fosamax (Alendronate) and Boniva (Ibandronate) belong to a group of drugs called bisphosphonates. They alter the cycle of bone formation and breakdown in the body, decreasing the rate at which bone cells are absorbed. They are both commonly prescribed to postmenopausal women for osteoporosis.

Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs

Although sometimes drugs like this are a good option if your are suffering from severe bone loss and your bones have become dangerously brittle, my suggestion would be to always try to rebuild bone naturally. Medications often just treat symptoms and do not tackle the underlying problem which is what Chinese medicine is all about. Of course there are times when medications are necessary, but even so, I would always encourage a patient to be working towards balance so that eventually they did not need the drugs.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to be extremely effective for osteoporosis. There have been many clinical trials that show that both acupuncture treatments as well as Chinese herbal formulas that treat the kidneys (in Chinese medicine the kidneys govern the bones, growth and maturation) are very effective in building bone mass making the bones less brittle and susceptible to fractures.

Exercise

Weight bearing exercise is what the body needs to lay down new bone and this type of exercise is prescribed for people with osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercise is defined as exercises one does on your feet working the bones and the muscles against gravity. While that doesn’t mean going to the gym and pumping weights, there are many types of exercises that fall into this category and will improve bone health.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Climbing stairs
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Tai Chi
  • Yoga
  • Golf
  • Gardening or working in the yard

As you can see, these are activities that almost anyone can do. Exercise is not only good for osteoporosis, it is also vital to our overall wellbeing. I always encourage patients to try to go outside every day, take some deep breaths and spend time in nature. It is a very grounding activity and often pulls us out of our heads and reminds us of what is important.

Acupuncture and Osteoporosis

In conclusion, my best advise on what to do about osteoporosis is to make changes to your diet, including as many calcium rich foods as possible, as well as making sure that you are getting adequate vitamin D to ensure that the calcium you are eating is being absorbed fully. Remove things like excess salt, sugar and alcohol from your diet and try to limit caffeine. Take some time every day to exercise, even if it is going for a walk to give your bones a workout which will stimulate them to lay down new bone and increase your bone density. And last but certainly not least, I would highly recommend seeking out an acupuncturist for regular treatments with the addition of Chinese herbs which are excellent for building up the kidneys and building strong healthy bones.

*Beautiful featured image photo by Linda Xu on Unsplash


Tapping and Slapping Qigong

By John Voigt

The Exercise

This qigong may be done when standing, seated, or walking. It is a delight to do in the morning, especially with others in a park as the morning sun rises. But it may be done at any time, and it’s especially helpful if you haven’t moved for a while. As with any exercise, and especially if you have or may have an illness, first check with a health professional before adding it to your daily practice. And stop doing it if anything hurts when doing it or afterwards “No pain no gain” is a western malapropism.

This Qigong is done with penetrating percussive fingertip tapping, open hand slaps, and softly clasped fists. Hit gently but forcefully, imagining you are penetrating all the way into the marrow of the bones. Never should the skin appear bruised, instead the skin should feel tingly and radiantly alive. Underneath the skin, especially in the fascia, should feel strengthened and full of warm thick qi. Also, your acupuncture points may begin to feel opened and cleansed.  All these positive sensations may last for twelve to twenty-four hours, or possibly longer.

The number of taps and slaps for each individual body part—usually of nine in a “bundle”—is for the beginner. Once you have grown accustomed to the exercise, the number of taps or slaps on any body part may be increased to up to one hundred or more in what I am calling a “bundle,” and the number of bundles may be increased from one to five or more. Yet even only a few taps, slaps, or hits with soft fists can prove beneficial and enjoyable. However it is important not to omit any section of the exercise; in other words, work on all the suggested parts of the body in the order that they are given, and try to do the entire practice every day.

The Warm Up

To build up the Qi (Life Force Energy): Rub your hands together, then stretch and wiggle your fingers. Feel the blood, qi and warmth flow into your hands. Tap your fingertips together. Wiggle your fingers again.

Pretend you are holding a beach ball. 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. This is to increase the quantity and quality of your qi as your taps and slaps are sending this healing vitality into the body.

1. The Upper Part of the Head. Lightly pat from the front to back with the fingertips. For the left side do 9 taps; then for the right side do 9 taps. Then repeat this. Avoid hitting the Baihui point, GV-20, at the crown (top) of the head.

2. The Arms. Tap with a soft fist 9 times down each of the four sides of the left arm (inside, outside, upper, lower). Stop when you reach the hand and never tap on or over the fingers. Do the same on the right arm.

3. The Shoulders. With either fingertips, soft fists, or cupped palms, strike the left shoulder with the right hand. Then the right shoulder with the left hand.  Do each side 9 times.

Note: Hit on and around the general vicinity of the GB-21 point. This is said to “disperse liver qi stagnation,” and “dredge excess qi from all the yang channels.” [Professor Jerry Alan Johnson. “Point Tapping Therapy.”]

4. The Upper Back. Tap the upper left back with a right-hand soft fist. Then the upper right back with a left-hand soft fist. Do each side 9 times.  If easier to do, use the right hand on the right side, left hand on the left side.

Note 1: Aim on striking on and around the Bl-15 acupressure point.

This point opens directly to the heart. Here a slapping or soft fist tapping is more easily done by someone else. It may help in reducing emotional problems—here I speak from personal experience, although it wasn't necessarily an instant fix.

Note 2: Because the upper back can be hard to reach, it may be convenient for you to substitute a tree for your fists by being like a bear in the woods and rubbing, banging and scratching your back up against a tree.  Be careful; wear a thick shirt or a coat, and as with any qigong: use common sense.

5. The Chest. Alternately using the hands, pat the chest downward and upward for a total of 18 times.

6.  The Abdomen and Small of the Back. Strike the left lower side of the abdomen with the right palm as you with a soft left-hand fist strike the small of the back. Do the left side 9 times; the right side 9 times.

7. The Buttocks. Tap or slap the left buttock with the left hand’s fingertips or soft fists or open cupped palm 9 times. Strike on and around the GV-30 point at the dimple on the buttocks. Do the same for the right side.

8. The Legs. Do not do this when standing on both feet. That would bring too much blood (and qi) to the head and also you might fall over. So do this exercise when you seated, or if standing prop your heel up on a support (chair, bench,  low wall, etc.). It’s a good idea to hold onto something with your non-striking hand to maintain your balance. Begin with fingertip tapping down from the thigh to the ankle (never hit the foot) 9 times for each of the four sides of the left leg (inner, back, upper, outer). Then do the same on the right leg.

To Finish

Rub your hands together and brush yourself off—(think “air wash”). Then shake yourself to further rid yourself of any remaining stagnation or bad qi [xie qi].  Then if convenient take a short walk.

Additional Comments. When tapping, slapping or hitting don’t just brutishly bash away on yourself. Use a light but penetration touch sending arrowheads of qi into the body, and then by instantaneously withdrawing your hand the acupoint (or whatever you are working on) seems to open by itself like a flower blooming in the spring. This Tonifies (strengthens by gathering in good qi), and Sedates (disperses bad qi).

Sources

Hu Bin. Keep Fit The Chinese Way. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1991. https://www.amazon.com/Keep-Fit-Chinese-Way-Traditional/dp/7119009087

Professor Jerry Alan Johnson. “Point Tapping Therapy.’ Qi Journal, vol. 274; Winter 2017-2018. http://www.qi-journal.com/store.asp?-token.S=qi&ID=3639

Mantak Chia. Bone Marrow Nei Kung. Destiny Books, 2006. https://books.google.com/books?id=Sl0oDwAAQBAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s

The author, may be contacted at john.voigt@comcast.net

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The beautiful featured image photo by Manja Benic on Unsplash


Winter Recipe for Kidneys - Fox Nut Rice Pudding

By NourishU

Kidney/Bladder Disease

Kidney deficiency is the cause of many illnesses and over 80% of people have a certain degree of kidney deficiency. Cold hands and feet, lack of energy, ringing in the ears, sexual dysfunction, joint pain, menstrual disorder, prostate problems, back pain, hearing impairment, premature aging, incontinent are some typical examples.

Winter time is the best season to preserve and promote kidney health. Eating black color food such as black beans is good for kidney. Salty taste can benefit kidney but too much can damage kidney too. Kidney stones are formed by the buildup of substances which crystallized into stone-like deposits. Diets high in protein and lack of exercise will result in severe overall net calcium loss and increase calcium presented to the kidneys. Western doctors’ advice in reducing the burden and workload of the kidney is by eating a diet low in meat, high in carbohydrate, restricted salt and drink plenty of water to dissolve smaller stones. And by avoiding peanut, chestnut, soy, asparagus, spinach, corn and egg and eating more celery, apple, pear, and beans.

The symptoms of a kidney infection are a sore throat, fever, lower back pain, tiredness, fatigue, thirst and loss of appetite. When there is edema, the volume of urine decreases and so is the blood pressure. Infections of the urinary tract are more common in females than males. It could be due to poor hygiene or food allergy. Bacteria grow more easily in alkaline than in acid urine and vitamin C can promote acid urine and also improve immunity.

The food treatment for kidney infection should include a low-sodium and high protein diets such as fish, meat, egg and soy products. Water intake should be increased. Diuretic foods such as watermelon, winter melon, black bean, broad bean, see qua, and small red bean are effective in expelling dampness. Corn silk and corn kernel cook with water to make tea can alleviate urinary tract or bladder infection. Grape juice can treat female urinary tract infection. Avoid spicy foods, garlic, and chive.

The other kidney dysfunctions include frequent urination, nephritis, leukorrhea in women, and nocturnal emission and spermatorrhea in men.

According to Chinese medicine, kidney problems are caused by yang deficiency, spleen, and heart deficiency. Emission is induced by excessive fire due to yin deficiency, weakness of kidney qi or the descent of heat-dampness. Treatments include nourishing kidney yin, removing fire, clearing heat and dissipating dampness.

Fox Nut Rice Pudding


Dried Fox Nut Seeds

Symptoms

  • Frequent urination especially at night
  • enuresis
  • whitish and turbid urine
  • nocturnal emission
  • leukorrhea

Therapeutic Effects

Tonify kidney and spleen, preserve essence, strengthen the muscles that control urination, relieve diarrhea.

Ingredients (2 Servings)

  • Fox nut (qian shi) 芡實 - 120gm
  • Sticky rice powder - 6gm

1.   Wash fox nut and soak with 2 cups of water for 4 hours.

2.   Pour fox nut and water into a grinder and grind it into a fine paste. Add sticky rice powder and mix well.

3.   Pour mixture into a small pan and cook over medium-low heat to become a thick soup (about 10 minutes). Stir frequently and add water if necessary.

4.   Add a little salt to serve.

Usage

Eat half before dinner and the other half one hour before bedtime. Continue for 10 days as one course of treatment. If necessary, continue up to one month or two to see a complete recovery.

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Winter Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Winter Season in Chinese Medicine.

Beautiful featured image photo by Julien Pianetti on Unsplash


Chinese Year of the Dog

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

On Friday February 16, 2018, we celebrated Chinese New Year and brought in the year of the dog. The Chinese new year falls on a different day every year and this is because it is based on a lunar cycle, unlike our calendar, which is based on the movement of the sun. In the Chinese zodiac, each year is dedicated to an animal, and it runs in twelve year cycles in a specific order. Each year also corresponds to an element based on the Chinese five element system - Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. This year is the year of the earth dog.

Years of the Dog include 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, and 2030. The dog year occupies the eleventh position in the Chinese zodiac.

People who are born in a year associated with a specific animal are said to have certain traits. Those born in a dog year are said to have the personality traits below. There are also five elements which rotate throughout the zodiac, 2018 is an earth year, therefore, this is an earth dog year. These elements further distinguish personality traits among people born in dog years. The different characteristics are listed below.

Wood Dog - Years - 1934, 1994

• Sincere
• Reliable
• Considerate
• Patient
• Understanding

Fire Dog - 1946, 2006

• Sincere
• Hardworking
• Intelligent

Earth Dog - 1958, 2018

• Excellent Communicator
• Responsible
• Serious

Metal Dog - 1910, 1970

• Cautious
• Conservative
• Always helpful to others
• Desirable

Water Dog - 1922, 1982

• Excellent at managing financial affairs
• Self Reliant
• Brave
• Independent

Lucky Things for Dogs

If you were born in a dog year the following things are considered lucky...

Lucky Numbers - 3, 4, 9 (and any numbers containing them, ie: 34, 49)

Lucky Colours - Red, Green and Purple

Lucky Days - The 7th and 28th of every Chinese lunar month

Lucky Months - The 6th, 10th and 12th Chinese lunar months

Lucky Directions - East, South and NorthEast

Lucky Flowers - Rose, Orchids

The Dog Personality

Dogs are loyal, kind, honest and trustworthy and will do anything for the people in their lives that they feel are the most important. They are cautious however, and will only give their loyalty and affections to someone whom they feel truly deserves it. Dogs are always happy and in a good mood, and able to see the bright side of any situation. Most seek out a simple life spending their time and energy on good friends, family and things that make them happy. Because of their inherent goodness, they also do not tend to crime, violence or other negative activities, they are more interested in the positive things in life.

One thing that dogs struggle with is communication, and always seem to have difficulty expressing themselves to others. Often, things can be misunderstood or misinterpreted and this can lead to problems. This can make relationships difficult and people sometimes are left with the impression that dogs are difficult to get along with.

Dogs are always ready to help others and are very selfless and not interested in their own gains, especially for those in their inner circle. Conversely, if they are deceived by those they trust, they will be deeply hurt and the betrayal can send them into a deep depression.

Dogs are usually very healthy and love to be active. They tend to have strong immune systems which makes them resilient when illnesses like colds and flus are going around and everyone else is falling ill.

Famous People Born in Dog Years

WinstonChurchill (wood dog) / Madonna (earth dog) / Elvis Presley (wood dog) / Mother Teresa (metal dog) Michael Jackson (earth dog) / Steven Spielberg (fire dog) / George Bush Jr. (fire dog) / Bill Clinton (fire dog) / Donald Trump (fire dog)

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The featured image photo by Hyunwon Jang on Unsplash


My Struggles Have Made Me A Better, More Empathetic Doctor

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Some of the most useful things that I have been able to bring to my patients are things that I have learned through my own experiences with trauma, pain, emotional issues, illnesses - and how I was able to get through them. These experiences also allow me tremendous empathy for the people I see, both in clinic and in everyday life. My thinking is that the more I go through and GET through, the better I can serve my patients and ultimately, my fellow human being. No matter our financial status, where we are born, our religion, colour or beliefs, we will all experience difficulties, pain, fear, sorrow, and illness at some time in our lives. And it helps to know that you are not alone and that you will ultimately get through it, and be stronger for the experience.

An Unusual Life (Let me get philosophical for a moment)

I have had, well, an unusual life. This has been mostly of my own making, and even though there have been a lot of ups and downs (oh *so* many), I wouldn't change any of it. I have never believed in regret. I believe that every experience that we have in this life contributes to making us who we are - that we are an accumulation of those experiences. I also think that it is important that we are at peace with the person we have become, no matter what may be happening in our lives. This certainly is not always easy. Remembering to be kind with ourselves as we are a young species, and here to learn a great deal which includes things which we judge to be unpleasant like pain, grief, loss, fear, anger, and frustration are all important pieces of the whole. Like Chinese medicine, I believe in a holistic system, with every part synergistically connecting to every other. I can draw so many parallels back to Chinese medicine, which is why I connected to it so strongly and why I fell so deeply and passionately in love with it. It is an allegory for life, and perhaps, all things in the universe and beyond.

Ever since I can remember I have been hungry for so many of the experiences that life has to offer. I didn't have a choice in the matter, it was like there was a force driving me, and I could either allow it to push me in the direction of experience or be crushed and ultimately destroyed by it. I wanted to do everything, try everything. I was driven by a curiosity about the world and my existence that has lead me to live a very, uh, interesting life. I was fascinated with travel and wanted to see as many places and cultures as I could. I loved the way that each place had a unique smell, a look, a feel and each would arouse such emotion. I also loved the newness of a different country, a new city or tiny village. I thrived being immersed in a completely alien culture and absorbing as much of it as I could, being exposed to its magic, its customs, rituals, food, and music. There is such beauty, creativity, and wonder that permeates the cultures of the world, and that is what I was after. I loved seeing what each had to offer, and learning how its people communicated, loved, celebrated and mourned. I absolutely think that travel is the best education. I learned more in my travels than I ever could in a classroom or books.

I have also been living my life in, I suppose, a unique way. I knew from very early on that I would never live the life that most people end up living. Buying a one-way ticket to another country and not knowing where you were going to stay, not having a job and not knowing how long you would be there? This is insane! they would say. Going to China alone to work in a tiny city so small (6 million people) it wasn't even on the map, and just hoping it would be ok? Foolish! Moving to Central America with a tiny baby to make a better life with hopes to buy land, live off the grid and create a sustainable community and healing retreat without the resources (yet) with which to do it? Madness. And yet, I have done all of these things with varying degrees of success. With these experiences came a lot of worry, grief, loneliness, frustration, and despair, I am not going to lie to you. And yet, even though they involved a lot of pain and emotions which are hard to deal with, I am glad I did those things because I learned a lot about myself, and how to process all the crazy things that life can throw at you. And even when things are difficult and painful, you do come out the other side, and the feelings then, are often intensely joyful because you have passed through such darkness to get to them. And yet, these experiences are not for the faint of heart. And many would say choices made by someone who may be a few crayons short of a full box.

I was once sitting in a session with a therapist before my imminent departure to a foreign country and he said to me "you know, this thing you are doing, would scare the hell out of most people. Aren't you afraid?" And, this was the first moment that I really thought about fear in connection with the situation. After a minute I said, "no, I am not scared of this at all." And then he asked me the inevitable question. "Well then, what are you scared of?" And the answer came to me quickly. I said "I am scared of being married to someone I don't love, working a job I hate and feeling trapped in a life I don't want. I fear getting to the end of my life and feeling like I never really lived."

Pain & Growth

In my experience, it has been the darkest moments, the most difficult times and when I was deeply suffering that I learned the most. It took me a long time to admit because I didn't want it to be true. I wanted to be able to learn from happiness, joy, freedom, and love, and I have. But not like I evolve when I am facing darkness. But maybe it is just me...

Take Vipassana meditation for instance. This, by definition, is taking a stroll through the winding path of your consciousness, that inevitably leads to some of the darker places in your subconscious. Vipassana is defined as "seeing things as they really are", which, at least in my experiences, have meant the whole she-bang. The light bits and the darker ones as well. And it is the darker ones that we tend to hide from, the ones that hurt us, leave scars and can hinder us in the present until we are able to heal them (acknowledging them first which is usually not easy and can bring up a lot of difficult feelings) and finally let them go.

**if you would like to learn more about Vipassana Meditation you can read about my two Vipassana retreats here - My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation and Vipassana 2.0.

I have seen this for many years with patients. As a practitioner, I like to get deep into things. I want to understand why you are having those headaches, the insomnia, and the panic attacks, so I ask a lot of questions in an attempt to get to the root of things. And I have found that so much of what makes people sick are things that have hurt them in their past that they are dragging with them into their present. That may sound strange, but in my experience, it is absolutely true. As a culture, we are all striving for health, but most of the time that is limited to the physical realm. And yet, as well as physical bodies, we all have emotions, but few of us are taught or have the skills to deal with them in a healthy way. I think that because I was such a sensitive child, and constantly overwhelmed by not only my emotions, but by the emotions of others, that I have been working my whole life to find a balance and a way to deal with them effectively so that they do not become demons that haunt me in my present.

Chinese medicine is well aware of this phenomena and the emotions are considered to be one of the causes of disease. Now, to clarify, HAVING emotions is not a cause of disease, but emotions that are suppressed, unexpressed or expressed in an inappropriate manner are seen to contribute to disease. So basically, emotional health is just as important as physical health, and so it should be. Patients are often surprised at how much attention I give to their emotional state as we talk in each session. And I tell them that it is a hugely important factor and that I need to be aware of how they are feeling so that I can better help them to rebalance and gain the equilibrium that will bring them back to health - body, mind, and spirit.

A Better Healer

I hope that because of all the experiences that I have had, and all the pain that I have been through, that those experiences have made me a better version of myself. A wiser, more compassionate self. And I also think that my struggles with pain, grief, anger, loss and my journeys into the darkness have given me the ability to recognize those struggles in others. I know that darkness, I have spent a lot of time there. I know that place and I can empathize with you if you are there too.

It is rarely the thing that people say they are coming in to see me for that is the thing that needs the most attention. And, because I have been there, in that dark place where you feel like you are hurting and all alone, that I can see that person, take their hand, and hopefully, lead them back into the light. Which is, after all, where we all want to be.

This beautiful quote by Ram Dass is one that has always really hit home for me, in my life and in my work. <3


The Most Important Qigong II - (Standing Post - Zhan Zhuang)

by John Voigt

In silence there must be movement, and in motion, there must be silence.

A small movement is better than a large movement,

no movement is better than a small.

Silence is the mother of all movement..

In movement you should be like a dragon or a tiger.

In non-movement you should be like a Buddha.

--Wang Xiangzhai, the Father of Standing Post Qigong

This is a continuation of the article - The Most Important Qigong - that appeared in Chinese Medical Living, January 2018.

A Quick Summary.

Stand straight and relaxed with chin slightly tucked back. Raise your arms and pretend to hug an imaginary large tree (or large ball). Breathe slowly, deeply, and smoothly. Hold the pose as long as possible. Relax into any discomfort you experience. If you experience any pain then stop immediately. With an empty mind be aware (feel) your posture; and gently correct it if necessary.

How Long to Practice.

Even a few minutes of serious practice each day should bring about some positive results.  As long as there is no pain, slowly extend the length of the practice. With an accomplished teacher several hours—even more—are theoretically possible.  However, for those who need more specific instructions: “Start by doing the standing exercises  for five minutes a day.  After three weeks, increase this to ten minutes.  Three weeks later, aim for 15 minutes, and 20 minutes after a further three weeks.  You can stand longer if you wish, but 20 minutes will refresh your whole system.”  Master Lam Kam Chuen.  The Way of Energy, pg. 25.

The important thing is to practice as relaxed, as long, and as often as you can.

MANAGING THE DISCOMFORT:

Photo credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/519532506985622303/

Discomfort is to be expected and dealt with by relaxing and breathing into the strained area.

Ignore any itches, tingling, even minor quick flashing pains which often are signs that energy blockages are being opened.  If it gets to be too much just stop doing the standing posture for a few seconds, then return to it with the arms not held so high, or the knees not bent so much. To alleviate some discomfort in the arms, imagine they are suspended up by strings from the elbows and wrists.  Or lower the hands down to in front of the belly.  Or imagine the arms are made of cotton.

Other ways to reduce discomfort are more fanciful, but perhaps more effective:  imagine you are floating in a pool of warm water; or you are a feather floating in the air.  For those that are more spiritually aggressive, imagine you are an angelic being of light floating in the heavens.

The simplest remedy is paradoxical: with the hint of a smile on your lips, just disregard the discomfort and sink into it as if it weren’t there—something like getting a “second wind” for a long distance runner.

However if sharp or intense pain occurs anywhere, especially in the knees or other joints, STOP!   If pain continues to occur during future practice, discontinue all practice until you receive professional advice from someone experienced in these matters.   

TECHNIQUES TO BETTER THE PRACTICE:

A Straight Back.

Be aware of the alignment and symmetry of your pose, and gently adjust and correct it as needed.

Although they may think that they are standing straight, most people lean slightly backwards or forwards when doing Standing Post. To experience what a straight back really feels like, lie on the floor in a supine position, or stand against a wall.  Or do it with a full length mirror to check your stance; or have someone look at you and tell you when are not straight.  Or imagine you are hanging from the limb of a tree by the hair on the top of your head.

Do not “tuck the tailbone under.”  Do not put that kind of force on your spine.  If you “sit back” on an imaginary high stool, the coccyx will properly straighten by itself.

Note:

Many people need to feel that they are leaning forward to get a correct straight posture.

Look at Grand Master Yu Yong-Nian with his students in the next picture.  For most (and especially with Master Yu) a theoretical plumb line could be dropped from the crown of the head through the center of the abdomen down to the perineum area.  Not only that: the Kidney-1 points (behind the balls of the feet) also line up, and all this is done so effortlessly!

Grand Master Yu Yong Nian with his students, Beijing, circa 1985.
Image source: http://www.yiquan78.org/postures.htm

MIND:

This is a mental as well as physical exercise, overcoming random thoughts is an important aspect …. Only [by] being completely relaxed and natural, not trying to control, just letting thoughts come and go Without  Attachment, can one really stabilize and liberate the consciousness. Wang Xiangzhai: Entering the Quiet State.

Other methods to clear the mind to gain that needed “quiescence”:  listen to the breath - make it silent - listen to the silence of the breath.  If that is too difficult, count each inhalation up to ten, then go back to one and repeat the counting.

Superstar martial artist Bruce Lee may have said it best in the movie, Enter The Dragon” with his “Don’t think, feel” … [that way you won’t miss ] … “All that heavenly glory.”

EYES:

Gaze in an absent minded way at the hands. As the Chinese say, “Look but don’t look.” This helps to more deeply relax into the static standing posture.

SHOULDERS:

If you have trouble keeping the shoulders loose, inhale and squeeze the shoulders up; then quickly exhale and drop the shoulders.

FINGERS-HANDS-ARMS: 

The fingers are slightly spread apart, and the thumbs are slightly bent—(imagine each hand is catching a ball).  Or, sometimes I tell my students, “think tiger claws.”  And keep the wrists loose.

Hands and arms are normally just below shoulder level, but they may be at the level of the lower abdomen (dantian), or the forehead, or the palms may face the ground;  there are many possible options.


The Eight Zhan Zhuang Posts of Yiquan
Image source: http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/06/eight-zhan-zhuang-posts-of-yiquan.html

KNEES:

The knees should never go past the toes; doing that can harm the knees.

About Knee Bends. 

Many martial arts teachers say that with the legs wider apart than shoulder width, you can gain a lower crouching stance which will enable more vital energy (qi) to be packed into your body.  This certainly has validity.  However in the standard practice of Zhan Zhuang, it is only an advanced option, and is best done only under the supervision of an experienced master teacher.

Normally the knees are bent about an inch—but it is standard to bend them as

much as you can without experiencing pain.

The knees should slightly push outward. To accomplish this, imagine a large ball expanding against, but simultaneously being held in place (isometric-like) by your knees. Guide your body weight to—and slightly lift up—the yongquan (Kidney-1) acupuncture points directly behind the balls of the feet.  This lifts the arches and distributes the weight between the heels, toes, and sides of the feet.  This will help you feel lighter and more agile.  It also keeps the knees from pointing inward.

Be a TREE. 

Zhan Zhuang sometimes is translated as “Standing Like a Tree.”  It may be helpful to bring the concept of  Tree into the practice.  For example, do the exercise outdoors among large healthy trees—You can imagine that you too are a tree standing straight and powerful; drawing up earth-yin energy and drawing down sun-yang energy.

Or visualize you are squeezing a tree and making it smaller; not only with your hands and arms, but also with your knees and legs.  Or imagine that you are pulling it out by its roots. All of these are done without any external movement.

To Prevent Energy Leakage.

Very gently tighten the muscles in the anal and perineum area.

What Not To Do. 

Master Wang Xiangzhai taught that Conscious Awareness and Physical Form working together is the basis of this work: In his words, “Mind activity is born from the posture; posture follows mind activity.”  What this means is that although he did teach using certain visualizations, he rejected thought controlled qigong practices such as orbiting qi in the meridians, working with specific acupuncture points, or Daoist or Buddhist breathing techniques.  I think he wanted us to be without any words in a place of Oneness (the “Flow” or  what athletes call, “In the Zone”).

BENEFITS FROM DOING THE PRACTICE:

“I do Zhan Zhuang and I’m happy! I do Zhan Zhuang and I’m healthy! I do Zhan Zhuang and I have a long life!”  - Grand Master Yu Yong-Nian https://munndialarts.com/english/master-yu-yong-nian/  (he lived 93 years).

Standing Post strengthens the muscles, and increases qi (life energy) in the body. It grants an awareness of the self—which may lead to profound psychological and spiritual experiences. Relaxing and being able to ignore discomfort is a skill that may be used in dealing with many of the difficult situations we may face in life.

Health: 

A basic premise of traditional Chinese health practices is that illness is caused when qi (vital life energy) is deficient, stagnant, excessive or blocked.  Properly done, Standing Post helps correct these problems.

Psychological:

Standing Post trains the mind to be still and concentrated, thereby gaining alertness, self discipline and will power.  The mind does not lose itself so easily in the daily stresses of modern life which often trigger a variety of psychological problems.

Spiritual Growth:

“In Zhan Zhuang Chi Kung one learns to return to the source of all power, to enter back into the very womb of universal energy and to experience the truth of the power of the void, the still point, the wuji" [i.e., the empty potential for infinite creation], (from Internal Arts Journal. http://www.qigonghealer.com/zhan_zhuang.html . Standing Post, occasionally called “Standing Meditation,” can bring the Body, Life Energy, and the Mind into an experienced state of Unity.  A place of Oneness: first with the self, then with nature, then the world, then the universe.  And finally perhaps with what some might call the “Dao.”

WARNINGS: 

If you have substantial [qi-energy] blockage in your body, the accumulated energy derived from Zhan Zhuang would cause internal injuries.” Wong Kiew Kit.  The Shaolin Arts. p. 150.   Do not practice when sick, instead go see a doctor!  Some sources say do not practice if you have high blood pressure, or excessive blood flow during menstruation or menopause, or if pregnant or right after childbirth.  As always, consult with professional health providers before doing any exercise or qigong; especially if you have any medical problems or health issues. As mentioned throughout this article: if there is pain stop. If the pain continues consult with a professional healer.

Notes

(Zhan Zhuang is translated many ways: “Standing Post” is accurate but without meaning for most English speakers.  Other terms are “Standing Stake,” “Standing Meditation,” “Standing Pole,” “Standing Like a Tree,” or “Stance Training.” Even its most important teacher in the 20th century, Master Wang Xiangzhai, near the end of his life called it Health Nourishing Postures,” and “Postures of Primeval Unity.”

This article is a summation of  “The Ultimate Energy Exercise: Zhan Zhuang – Standing (Like A) Post. Qi Journal, vol. 23/n.2; Summer 2013.  https://www.qi-journal.com/store.asp?-token.S=qi&ID=3319

The next issue of Chinese Medicine Living for March, 2018 will have the concluding The Most Important Qigong – III:  (Standing Post - Zhan Zhuang). It  features

Dr. Yan Xin’s http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm version of Standing Post, as well as a list of books, online articles, and videos for further study.

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Featured image source: http://www.yiquan78.org/postures.htm


Winter Recipe - Astragalus Dangshen Mutton Soup

By NourishU

Seasonal Eating in Chinese Medicine - Winter Recipes

Winter with the drop of temperature is the time to slow down on physical activities because our body's metabolic rate will be slower. It is also the time to eat nourishing food to help the body to preserve energy. Animals follow the law of nature and hibernate throughout winter. Human should also preserve energy and build up strength, preparing the body for regeneration and new growth in spring.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, tonic-taking in winter has a great bearing upon the balancing of Yin and Yang elements, the unblocking of meridians, and the harmonizing of Qi and blood. In the five elements theory of TCM, winter is when the kidneys are highly active and they have astringent and active storage functions that help in preserving energy. People should eat food with less salty taste in order to reduce the burden on the kidneys. Uncooked and frozen foods can damage the spleen and stomach and should be taken in moderation.

Photo by Mike Kotsch on Unsplash

In winter when body's resistance is low, elderly people are especially advised to take food tonics which can improve their body constitution and promote better resistance to illness. Food tonics can have much better healthful effects than supplementation and drugs.

The tonics include superior warming herbs, fatty and meaty foods. Our body is designed to absorb the rich and nutritional foods better at this time of the year. For people who have cold constitution with cold hands and feet, weak kidney health with frequent urination, cold and stiff body and constant pain in their backs and ankles, winter is the best time for them to correct these health problems when the body is most responsive to nutritional treatment.

The warming winter foods include chive, chicken, mutton, shrimp, ginger, garlic, walnut, mushroom, chestnut, mustard, vinegar, wine, gingko, red pepper and spring onion. For people who are cold in nature, they should also use the warming herbs such as dangshen, ginseng, astragalus, reishi mushroom, longan fruit and deer horn, etc. to promote yang energy.

Astragalus Dangshen Mutton Soup

Therapeutic Effects

Nourishes qi and blood, clears toxicity and promotes regeneration of skin.

Ingredients 

  • Mutton – 360gm (cut into pieces)
  • Dried shiitake mushroom – 10
  • Astragalus (huang qi) 黃耆 – 30gm
  • Dangshen (dang shen) 黨參 – 30 gm
  1. Wash mutton and put in boiling water to cook for a few minutes, remove and rinse.
  2. Soak mushroom for about 30 minutes, remove stem and cut into halves.
  3. Rinse herbs and put all ingredients in a soup pot with about 10 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium heat and simmer for 3 hours.
  4. Add seasoning to serve. Drink soup and eat some meat.

Usage

Recommended for no more than twice per month in winter months for health promotion.

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Winter Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Winter Season in Chinese Medicine.

Featured image photo by Matthew Hamilton on Unsplash