The Art of Listening - Why Listening is Imperative to Health

By Emma Suttie D.Ac, AP

In over 15 years of practice, I have learned that listening is essential to good health. I realize this may sound strange, but it is actually a very fundamental part of Chinese Medicine. Let me explain what I mean. 

We live very differently than our ancestors did. Many of us live in crowded cities, commuting to jobs where we often sit at desks in front of computers all day. When we exercise, it is usually inside, at a gym watching tv or listening to music. We are often rushed, stressed and underslept, eating when we can and trying to balance everything in our hectic lives so we can keep going. Sound familiar? This was my life for many, many years and I know it is the life many of us have in our fast-paced, modern world. 

Our ancestors, however, lived in a different way. Some may look upon ancient peoples ways as being simple and their lives harsh and without pleasure. But more and more, we are beginning to understand that the way many ancient cultures lived was far more conducive to health and wellbeing than our manic modern lifestyles. So, why is that? Well, the key is that people in times past were living in harmony with the natural world, and as time has gone on, the development of technology, factory farms, automation and the movement of people to big cities, we have disconnected ourselves from the natural world and a connection that is deeply ingrained in each and every one of us. It was literally the way we had survived for thousands of years. Paying attention to our surroundings and being aware of the earth’s cycles and rhythms was the way that we were able to anticipate and make subtle changes to our behaviour to ensure our survival. 

This breathtaking photo by farfar on Unsplash | Laozhai, Guilin, China


A Word About Listening

A vital part of this connection to our external environment was our ability to listen. And I am not just talking about listening with your ears (although that is certainly an important part). I am talking about a heightened sensitivity to all exterior stimuli - a listening you do with your entire body. When you live harmoniously with nature as our ancestors did, your senses are heightened in a way that they are probably not living today (unless you are living very remotely and have in fact not lost this connection at all). People rose and slept with the sun. They raised crops and had to be attuned to the weather and the changing of the seasons to know how to adjust to what their plants needed. They could tell you what the weather would be and would know what the sky looked like when a storm was coming, or there was an approaching cold front. In colder months more warming foods were eaten, foods that grew in that season as well as the inverse, eating lighter fare in the warmer months because that is what nature provided at that time of year. 

The behaviour of animals also held clues to what was going on in the natural environment. For example, animals can often sense disasters like tsunamis and survive when humans don’t by escaping to higher ground. This is because they are so attuned to the earth that they can feel minute vibrations and hear the wave coming long before humans have any idea of what is going on. Studies have also shown that many animal species use the earth’s magnetic field to navigate. If you are attuned to your animals they will usually give you clues to changes in the environment. Unusual animal behaviour should always be taken seriously and as a warning, that danger could be afoot. These are all ways in which we listen. 

Because our ability to listen was directly tied to our survival, it was an essential skill. It was normal and natural and something we all did by instinct. Our days were spent outside hunting, gathering or farming so we were very connected to our surroundings and living in a state of symbiosis with the world around us. Our relationship with nature was a symbiotic one. 

This stunning Photo by Robynne Hu on UnsplashAvatar Mountain, Zhangjiajie, China


In those ancient times, we considered ourselves PART of nature and not separate from it as we do today. Listening to our surroundings also can be turned inward and listening to our bodies was integral to keep healthy with the goal of never getting sick. Our bodies speak a language that we all know and understand. But, as with any language, if you don’t practice, you will lose it and eventually forget how to speak it at all. 

The body offers us many clues to tell us what is happening. They begin very subtly and, if not attended to, will become more and more pronounced, until they finally manifest as serious diseases in a last-ditch attempt to get our attention. So, what kind of clues am I talking about? Well, pain is a good one. A headache, stomach ache or wandering pain are all ways your body is speaking to you. One way to think about it is to compare the body to a garden. Your body, in a healthy and balanced state, is a beautiful garden, bursting with life and vitality. One must tend a garden every day for it to be healthy and thrive. You must walk through your garden, observe the flowers and plants to see which ones are growing well and which are struggling. Some may need more water and some may be getting too much sun. Then, make small adjustments to make sure everything in your garden is getting exactly what it needs. Of course, no one is born a master gardener, but we are all born with a very strong and innate knowledge of how to listen and recognize when things need attention. This approach teaches us that making small changes is far easier than waiting until things become catastrophic and getting back to balance is more difficult.

The Disconnect

As we moved away from living off the land and our connection to our surroundings, we began living in larger and more industrialized places. Towns and cities sprang up everywhere and people were anxious to participate in this new, fast-paced way of life. In the process, many of us moved away from nature entirely and inevitably, our deep connection to ourselves. It is interesting that the move away from nature inevitably ends in a disconnect from ourselves and that is because we literally are part of nature and inseparable from it. 

This beautiful photo by Zach Miles on Unsplash | New York City


Work, instead of being outside hunting, tending crops or animals, is now defined as sitting in offices under electric lights and staring at computer screens for hours every day. To know the time, we look at a clock instead of the position of the sun. To know the weather, we look on our phones or an app instead of simply looking out the window. Most of us no longer grow our own food, but go to a grocery store where it is politely packaged for our convenience. These are only a few examples. We now suffer unprecedented levels of obesity, anxiety and depression. Some of the leading causes of death are heart disease, cancers and strokes, all of which in my opinion, can largely be prevented by changing our lifestyles and living in a more harmonious way with our surroundings. 

I lived in a big city for most of my life, so I am familiar with the phenomenon. I have in recent years, after longing for it for as long as I can remember, been able to live in the country with access to land. I have also been able to either grow some of my own food or know the person who did. I have made an effort to spend time outside every day, and when I do, I feel BETTER. My mind slows down, I get back into my body and I can appreciate the beauty of simple things like a passing butterfly or the beauty of a flower. And something else has happened. It has been a gradual reconnection to the way I believe we are all meant to be living to be our happiest, healthiest and most complete selves - a reconnection with myself that has been really lovely to experience. With all the excitement of things like technology and the advances we make as a species, it is easy to get caught up in the wonder those advances can create, but I will always try to balance that with the beauty and wonder that nature has always held and the knowing that we are all a part of the planet that enriches and sustains us.

The author, standing in a field of chives somewhere in the mountains of Panama. 


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What Can Chinese Art Teach Us about Healing?

By Sally Perkins

“Where the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity,” said Hippocrates, highlighting the fact that medicine is a creative as well as a scientific pursuit. Medical professionals, after all, have a range of tools, knowledge, and experience at hand but often, in order for all these to align in the correct balance, creative choices need to be made. Ancient Chinese art, like ancient writings, are a rich source of information about medical practises, some of which are still used with patients today. They are also testimony to the celebration of humanity in all its facets and an open window into the suffering and joy involved in illness and healing, respectively.

Suffering for a Higher Good

The work Moxibustion, a hanging scroll by the Song artist Li Tang, depicts an itinerant doctor conducting moxibustion - a form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials (moxa) are burned close to or on the surface of the skin, to invigorate the flow of Qi through the body and to eliminate toxins. In the beautifully detailed scroll, the man being treated contorts his face in pain and others hold onto him or try to accompany him during this difficult time. The work is not only illustrative of the importance of balanced Qi but also a symbol of the sacrifices that must be made to achieve it and the pain this can involve. In order to be healthy of mind and body, everything from one’s choice of diet to one’s breathing and exercise habits must work in unison since prevention is always better (and less painful) than cure.


Photo by Jade Lee on Unsplash


The Harmony of the Eight Brocades

The Eight Brocades are a set of qigong exercises that focus on a different meridian, once again focusing on a different meridian to encourage the optimal flowing of qi through the body. The work Illustrated Album of the Eight Pieces of Brocade, created by an anonymous artist during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) portrays the eight exercises as well as breathing exercises. In the illustrations, both the beauty of the human form and the peace and joy that result from prioritizing health, are evident. In some postures, the subjects open their mouths to breathe but also seem to smile, their mouths turned upwards and their eyes both concentrating and enjoying the moment they are in.

Recreating the Beauty of Ancient Chinese Art

Art in itself can be a means of healing. It can inspire one to lead a healthier lifestyle and aspire to a higher ideal of health - a holistic, all-encompassing state of body and mind, one in which Qi is unblocked. If you wish to follow the example laid out in ancient Chinese art, begin by drawing the human face and body, paying special attention to proportion and perspective. If you are a beginner to drawing and you wish to express pain, joy, peace, and other qualities through the eyes, take advantage of online resources to hone the basics of eye sketching. Basic steps include making and joining curved lines, adding the iris, and adding color and details. As your skills improve, you can start to include more people in your drawings and create more sophisticated compositions.



Photo by volc xia on Unsplash


Following the Examples Set in Ancient Chinese Art

You can also visit exhibitions featuring medical and health subjects to enlighten you on how to lead a healthier life. From studying the different positions and breathing techniques of qi gong right through to learning more about healing herbs, diet, and traditional medicines, you can balance the vital force of energy within you and feel more invigorated. In this state, it is easier to embrace creativity in everything from your work to your leisure time.

Art and science have a strong link and nowhere is this more evident than in highly praised objects of ancient Chinese art. The latter displays suffering, treatment, and healing methods. It also shows the importance of breathing and exercise to strengthen the body and enable Qi to flow as it needs to.


Featured image photo by Lisanto 李奕良 on Unsplash - photo from Sanxia District, New Taipei City, Taiwan


Ancient Chinese Medicine Secrets For Younger Looking Skin

By Sally Perkins

Skin aging is a common concern among millions of people all over the world, and some people won't hesitate to spend a lot of money to keep their skin looking young. According to a survey, most people spend over 25 percent of their beauty maintenance budget on their face alone. Moreover, it was found that more women in their 30s choose to invest in anti-aging products and facial moisturizers than any other age group. Using pricey creams and serums may give your skin a youthful glow, but traditional Chinese medicine and therapies may be even better to prevent and combat wrinkles, fine lines, and other visible signs of skin aging. Here's are some ancient Chinese medicine secrets for younger looking skin.

Almonds to reduce fine lines

Photo by Nacho Fernández on Unsplash

Several factors, such as constant exposure to direct sunlight, lifestyle habits, and an unhealthy diet can cause skin aging. Having dry indoor air can also result in dry skin and make it look older than it really is. This is why it's important to increase the moisture in the air with a humidifier to keep your skin looking supple and young. Apart from adding humidity to your indoor air, another thing that you can do to keep your face smooth and wrinkle-free is to use almonds as part of your beauty regimen.

Almond oil has been used in ancient Chinese practices to help soothe and soften the skin. Since it contains Vitamin A, it can also stimulate the production of new skin cells and reduce fine lines. You can use a small amount of almond oil as a facial moisturizer, or use it as a makeup remover. You can also try using ground almonds as an overnight mask. Prepare an ancient Chinese skincare recipe by soaking almonds in water and peeling the brown skins off. Grind the peeled almonds and mix with one egg white. Apply to your face and leave it overnight; rinse it off in the morning with cool water to reduce fine lines.

Acupuncture for wrinkle-free skin


Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

Acupuncture can stimulate the body's healing responses, depending on where the needles are inserted. To improve wrinkles, an acupuncturist will insert needles in certain facial points to trigger the production of collagen in the body. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, but as we age, our bodies produce less and less collagen, which can result in wrinkles and older looking skin. By increasing the body's collagen stores, acupuncture can help to give you that radiant glow that you once had. Avoid reversing the effects of facial acupuncture by limiting your exposure to direct sunlight, avoiding smoking, and refraining from eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Soy to increase skin firmness


Photo by Yoav Aziz on Unsplash

Food therapy is an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine since the food we eat can have an effect on the way we look and feel. Soy products such as tofu and soy milk have always been consumed by women in various parts of Asia, which may explain why their skin looks younger than their years. Studies show that the nutrients in soy can increase the production of elastin in the body, which can make the skin stronger, firmer, and less likely to sag. You can include tofu or miso in your everyday meals, or mix warm soybean milk with a little ground almond, and drink it in the morning to enhance your skin's firmness.

Having younger looking skin doesn't have to cost you a fortune. Try these traditional Chinese remedies to get rid of fine lines, wrinkles and sagging, and enjoy having beautiful and healthy skin as you age.


Featured image photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash


Chinese New Year & The Chinese Zodiac

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese New Year

The celebration of the New Year is the longest, most important and most anticipated Chinese holiday. The Chinese New Year is celebrated by an estimated one-sixth of the population or one billion people! Because it is traditionally a holiday spent with family, the coming New Year causes an enormous number of people to travel to be with loved ones and has been called the largest annual human migration in the world. The traditional holiday period is 23 days long and is called the Spring Festival. it is broken up into three parts. The first eight days are called Little Year. This is when the preparations for the New Year begin and go until New Year's Eve. Chinese New Year officially begins on the ninth day and runs for the next ten days, for eleven days in total. This is officially called the Spring Festival. The last four days are called the Lantern Festival. Preparations begin on the first day and the Lantern Festival is held on the last day. Below is a chart to help you visualize it.

 


Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels

The Lunar Calendar

The date for the Chinese New Year varies each year because the Chinese Zodiac system is based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar and not the solar or Gregorian calendar that is used in the West and internationally. Using the lunar calendar, the first day of the month begins on the new moon. Chinese New Year's day is the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar. This is why the specific date of the Chinese New Year changes every year but is always between January 21st and February 20th.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels

The 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

There are twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac and they go in a specific order. Every New Year it signifies the movement to the next animal in the cycle. The really interesting thing is that each animal year has lots of personality traits associated with it, and people born in that year are seen to be imbued with those particular traits.

What's Your Zodiac Sign?

The year you were born determines your Chinese zodiac sign, but, because it is based on the lunar calendar and not the solar, or gregorian calendar. People born in January or February have to pay special attention to their birth date as well as the year to make sure they get their Chinese zodiac sign correct as the exact date of the transition between animals varies every year. Here are the animals in the Chinese zodiac in order, starting with the year of the rat.

RAT - OX - TIGER- RABBIT - DRAGON - SNAKE - HORSE - GOAT - MONKEY - ROOSTER - DOG - PIG

Rat

People born in the year of the rat are highly organized and love saving money and collecting beautiful things. They are very discerning with the people they spend their time with. Rats don't like to be the centre of attention but are highly observant and very sensitive.

Ox

People born in the year of the ox are strong, quiet and very hard working. They have a strong sense of responsibility, and will always get the job done. They keep their emotions (and most other things) to themselves. If they run into difficulties, they always persevere. They don't lose their temper often but when they do, it is explosive.

Tiger

People born in the year of the tiger are highly protective, independent and are natural-born leaders. Justice is important to them and they are not afraid to fight to get it. In Chinese culture, tigers are believed to be the guardians of children so children often wear clothing, hats and shoes with tiger designs for protection.

Rabbit

People born in the year of the rabbit are gentle and kind. They are responsible and have great attention to detail. They are intelligent and excellent with their hands, making them excellent artists, craftsmen, builders and chefs. In Chinese culture, the rabbit represents the moon.

Dragon

The dragon is the only mythical creature in the Chinese zodiac. People born in the year of the dragon are mysterious and majestic. They are full of personality and love lives full of adventure. They are natural leaders and very charismatic. They will never lead a boring life. They are extremely ambitious and achieve great things. Dragons are a very revered creature in Chinese culture and represent royalty. Emperors were often seen as the reincarnation of dragons.

Snake

People born in the year of the snake are determined and devoted. They are rational, calm and thoughtful. They love solving complex problems and have many talents allowing them to be able to choose many different professions. Snakes are graceful and are loyal to all the people in their lives.

Horse

People born in the year of the horse are strong, powerful and elegant. They have great strength and enthusiasm. They love their freedom and have a strong sense of adventure. Horses are intelligent and quick-witted making them suitable for fast-paced professions as they can think on their feet and adapt to change.

Goat

People born in the year of the goat are loving, kind and gentle. They are lovers of animals, children and nature. They love to care for others because they are thoughtful and good-natured. They have many friends as they are great listeners and always understanding and kind.

Monkey

People born in the year of the monkey are highly intelligent, clever and adventurous. They are creative thinkers, have many interests and excel in many areas. They tend to be tricksters, but are good-natured. they are very sociable and humourous and are well-liked by their many friends. They make excellent leaders.

Rooster

People born in the year of the rooster are magnetic, confident and high energy. They love being the centre of attention and are charismatic, very sociable and successful. Roosters are intelligent, and organized, resourceful and courageous, they will lead an exciting life.

Dog

People born in the year of the dog are loyal, honest and kind. Because of their intense loyalty, they love to serve others. Warm-hearted, sensitive and generous, they always have many people around them who love them. They are dependable, intelligent and resilient, making them great friends and allies.

Pig

People born in the year of the pig are intelligent, generous and helpful. Sincere, romantic and generous, they have a laid back attitude and don't let things get to them. They are able to see the big picture and not get caught up in the details. They are calm and collected and are great at settling disputes.

RAT - OX - TIGER- RABBIT - DRAGON - SNAKE - HORSE - GOAT - MONKEY - ROOSTER - DOG - PIG


This cute image from cafeastrology.com

Being In Your Animal Year or Ben Ming Nian

Being in your birth year, or Ben Ming Nian in the Chinese zodiac happens every twelve years. You would think that when your animal rolls around that it would be a good thing, because it is YOUR animal so it must signify all kinds of good things for you, right?

Unfortunately, the opposite is true. It is considered a year that you have to be especially careful and where you are most predisposed to attacks from evil spirits and general misfortune. Good news though, something you can do to ward off any bad luck or calamity during your year is to wear red underwear every day. Yup, every day...

So why is it that being in your animal year is considered to be such bad luck? According to Chinese astrology, people in their animal year are believed to offend the 'God of Age' Tai Sui. Tai Sui is called a star, but is not in fact a star but roughly corresponds to Jupiter. Jupiter takes 11.86 years to orbit the earth and is an imaginary star that changes its position exactly 30 degrees each year, which means it orbits the earth exactly every twelve years.

The 'star' Tai Sui is said to bring back luck and misfortune to people in the zodiac year of the animal in which they were born. For example, if you were born in the year of the rat and you are presently in a rat year, you may be in for a rough year. Tai Sui eventually evolved into the God of Age and has been worshipped by many generations of Chinese. People offer the God of Age sacrifices to keep themselves safe from bad luck and offer blessings in their zodiac year. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can fend off bad luck in your zodiac year.

Getting Good Luck in Your Animal Year

Wear Red

Red is one of the luckiest colours in Chinese culture and is seen to ward off evil spirits and drive away bad luck. Red symbolizes prosperity, success, loyalty and happiness. Wearing red items like clothing, shoes, belts or socks in your animal year will bring you good luck and give you a better chance of having a good year. Red clothing will bring luck, but red underwear seems to really amplify red's luck producing effects. There is an important rule though to make sure that wearing red will have the desired effects - the red items (and especially the underwear) must NOT be bought by you, it must be bought by someone close to you like your spouse, family member or friend.


Photo by Castorly Stock on Pexels

Wear Jade

Wearing jade accessories like jewellery during your animal year is also seen to ward off evil spirits and encourage good luck.

Facing Away From Tai Sui

Because Tai Sui is seen to change position by 30 degrees every year, Chinese astrologers say that if you simply face away from the direction Tai Sui is presently occupying you can not only ward off bad luck, but you can bring good luck by simply facing in the opposite direction. Some Chinese take this seriously changing the position of furniture in their homes and sometimes where they live and work so they can be facing away from the God of Age and preserve their good luck for the entire year.

Origins of the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac or Sheng Xiao (生肖) is thought to have its origins in animal worship and dates back to the Qing dynasty, more than 200 years ago.

Legend has it that the creation of the Chinese zodiac comes from the Jade Emperor. The Jade Emperor is one of the most important deities in Chinese mythology. He is the ruler of heaven and the first emperor of China. He was renowned for his fairness, benevolence and mercy. Even in the present day, the Jade Emperor plays a significant role in Chinese life, especially during the New Year when the Jade Emperor is said to judge the character of each individual over the past year and reward or punish them accordingly.

The legend has it that the Jade Emperor summoned all the animals to his palace for a great feast, and they order in which they arrived determined their place in the zodiac.

The Chinese zodiac is extremely popular in China and the rest of Asia to this day and is an integral part of everyday life. The zodiac is used to determine what will happen during the year ahead, relationship compatibility, career and financial advice, the best time to have a baby and many aspects of daily life.

 

*Featured image by Min An on Pexels


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Welcome To The Year of the Ox!

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Chinese New Year arrives on February 12th this year. The celebration of the Chinese New Year is called the Spring Festival and is the longest and most anticipated Chinese holiday. It is also celebrated by an estimated one-sixth of the world's population or one billion people! The traditional holiday period for the Spring festival is 23 days and is broken up into 3 parts. The first 8 days, this year from February 4th to the 11th is called Little Year. This is when preparations for the New Year begin and go until New Year's eve. Chinese New Year officially begins on February 12th and ends on February 22nd. This is the Spring Festival. And the last four days, this year February 23 to the 26th are called the Lantern Festival. Preparations begin on the 23rd and the lantern festival is held on February 26th.

Chinese Lantern Festival takes place on February 26th in 2021.
Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Lunar Calendar

The date for the Chinese new year varies each year because it is based on a lunar calendar and not the gregorian calendar that we use in the West. Using the lunar calendar, the first day of the month begins on the new moon. This is why Chinese new year falls on a different day each year.

Chinese New Year - February 12, 2021

The Twelve Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

Each Chinese New Year is associated with an animal. There are twelve animals in total and they go in a specific order and repeat every twelve years in a continuous cycle. 2021 is the year of the ox, which is the second animal in the zodiac. Each of the years also has an element associated with it. There are five elements and they are fire, earth, metal, water and wood. 2021 is the year of the metal ox.

Ox Years: 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Here are the animals in the Chinese zodiac listed in order with their corresponding year.


This image from cafeastrology.com


The Ox Personality

People born in the Year of the Ox are hard-working, loyal, trustworthy and conscientious. They are also reliable, methodical, fair and inspire confidence in others. As a result of these traits, they make friends easily and keep them for the long term. They are usually quiet and say little, but have strong opinions. They believe strongly in themselves but are also stubborn and hate to fail or be challenged. They usually have a great deal of common sense and intelligence. They are hard workers but never want praise or to be in the spotlight. In Chinese culture, the ox is a highly valued animal because of its work in agriculture. The twelve animals were chosen because of their importance to the people and the way they benefited their lives. Below are some of the personality traits of people born in the year of the ox.

  • strong
  • reliable
  • fair
  • conscientious
  • calm
  • patient
  • methodical
  • trustworthy
  • intelligent
  • loyal
  • quiet
  • serious
  • positive
  • grounded
  • workaholics
  • inspire confidence in others
  • opinionated
  • stubborn
  • hate to fail
  • don't like being challenged

According to astrologers, the year of the ox denotes hard work, positivity and honesty and these are the qualities that will manifest in all of us over the next twelve months.

Compatability

Most Compatible with Ox

Most compatible with Ox are Rat, Snake and Rooster.

Least Compatible with Ox

Goat, Horse and Dog.

Lucky Things for Oxen

Colours: Blue | Green | Yellow
Numbers: 1 & 4
Flowers: Lucky Bamboo | Lily of the Valley

Unlucky Things

Colours: Brown | Red
Numbers 3 & 6

What Animal Are You?

Check the chart below and find out your Chinese animal...

This image from changechecker.org

Featured image is by Photo by V Srinivasan on Unsplash


Download This Sheet - Chinese Year Of The Ox

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Chinese Medicine To Support Sensible Weight Loss

By Sally Perkins

According to the CDC, around three-quarters of all American adults are overweight. With around two-thirds of these trying to change their eating habits and lose a few pounds, it’s no surprise that weight loss plans and programs are big business, with a huge range of suggestions and options touted as providing miraculous results – some with more success than others. Chinese medicine offers the opportunity for mindful, realistic and sustained weight loss, so if you’re looking for a sensible solution for an ongoing, healthy lifestyle, here are some changes you could consider making.

Food and Functionality

Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on many principles relating to food consumption, metabolism and digestion which can aid weight loss and improve your relationship with eating. Excessive weight gain is thought to relate to the accumulation of ‘dampness’ – a condition that occurs when food intake, absorption, digestion and transportation are not balanced. Take the festive season as an example – if you eat too much, or consume food higher in fat, your spleen and stomach will struggle to transform your food, and any excess will be left sitting stationary, leading to an accumulation of dampness.

Elimination of dampness is the main tenet of traditional Chinese weight loss programs, and there are a number of ways to achieve this. According to the guidelines, cultivating a diet of bitter, sour and pungent foods can aid with achieving a healthy body shape, and help you avoid fluctuating weight that can have an impact on your mood, wellbeing and budget – having to invest in different clothes of different sizes gets expensive, and has a negative impact on the environment too. Whether you’re ensuring your favorite bikini will fit exactly come the summer, aiming to eliminate health conditions exacerbated by weight, or simply want to adopt a more mindful lifestyle, changing the way you eat can make a real difference.

Antioxidant Assistance

Many Chinese people drink tea every day, and it is thought to have a number of health benefits. Polyphenols are an antioxidant found in tea and may help to maintain a healthy metabolism whilst you lose weight, repairing cells and easing digestive issues. Green tea, Jiaogulan tea and Oolong all have a soothing flavor and a good level of antioxidants, and just one cup a day is enough to make a difference – something that can be easily incorporated into most daily routines. There are also various herbs known to support weight loss by suppressing appetite, burning fat, and boosting metabolism. He Ye (lotus leaf), Fu Ling and Huang Qi are some of the most well-known, but there are others that may also be suitable, depending on your lifestyle, goals and commitment to weight loss. Consulting a Chinese medicine practitioner can help you to tailor an individual treatment plan based on your personal needs.


Photo by Kristaps Ungurs on Unsplash

Changing the way you eat and drink and supplementing with appropriate herbs is not just about losing weight; it’s about improving your overall wellbeing and health as well. Making one or two small changes at a time can support you to develop positive food habits that’ll balance your body and leave you feeling fit and functional – as well as helping you to stay that way.


Featured image photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash



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Nutrition for Every Season

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

He that takes medicine and neglects his diet wastes the skills of his physician.

Chinese proverb

Hippocrates also said, "let food be thy medicine" in the fifth century BCE. These two pieces of wisdom tell us that it was well understood many hundreds of years ago, in very different parts of the world that what we ate was an important factor in maintaining health as well as recovering from disease. And even today with advances in medicine and technology, food is still the best medicine and the easiest and most impactful way to stay healthy and disease-free.

Food As Medicine

Nutrition is one of the foundational elements of Chinese Medicine. The ancient Chinese understood very well that the best medicine is not the herbal remedy given when you have a cold or the salve when you scrape your knee, the best medicine is the food we ingest every day. It helps to build our immune systems, fortify us against disease, cool excess heat, drain dampness, move stagnation and warm us when we are deficient.

Our ancestors were intrinsically connected to nature, and this connection was necessary for survival. They paid attention to the seasons, but more specifically, changes in the weather, the cycles of crops, migration of animals, and the cycles of the sun and moon. They were attuned to the natural rhythms of the planet and were able to adjust their behaviours to maintain a sort of equilibrium with their surroundings. This focus on prevention was also very important and was knitted into the foundation of Chinese Medicine as it was practised then as well as today. But, the key to living preventatively is that we have to really be attuned to our bodies and our surroundings. We have to be able to hear what our bodies are telling us so we can give them what they need, and that is something that many of us have lost living in the fast-paced city life in the modern world. But this listening, this attunement is something that Chinese Medicine teaches. Your body is always communicating with you, you only have to listen.

The Thermal Nature of Foods & People

So, how does it work, to use food as medicine? Good question. Chinese Medicine has a pretty elegant system for understanding how to use food as medicine and stay healthy in every season. Foods have a thermal nature and so do people. It is that delicate balance of yin and yang. Some foods are cooling and some are heating. People also have a thermal nature. They usually have a thermal nature that occurs naturally when they are in a healthy state and knowing this is very helpful as you move forward. And then, the weather and surroundings also have a thermal nature, so it is a dynamic balance of these three ingredients that we are after. Granted, this can all get a little complex and you can get pretty deep into it (if you are a nerd practitioner like me), but there are some basics that will help you get started. Think about the seasons as a continuously fluctuating cycle of yin (cold) and yang (hot) energies. Summer is the height of yang or heat energies and winter is the peak of yin or cold energies. Summer gradually cools off and moves into fall, which cools further to transition into winter. Winter comes to an end and the yin energies gradually are infused with yang with spring, which further heats up as it moves into summer.

So, you want to balance the temperature of the season you are in with foods that are generally its opposite. Cooling foods in summer, and warming foods in winter. Gradually more warming foods in fall and gradually cooling ones in spring as those are the transitional months. You can also affect the thermal nature of the foods you eat by different cooking methods, which is why those change according to the season too. This is very very general, but it gives you an idea and a place to start. Then you can introduce the idea of constitutions and it adds another layer of complexity, but as you practice and becoming aware of the seasons and the thermal nature of the foods you are eating, it actually becomes this really beautifully nourishing and healing way to eat, and one your body will love. I will work on an article about constitutions to explain that a little bit more, but in general, a person is also a dynamic balance of yin and yang energies. Some people are naturally more yin and some are naturally more yang. When you know what you are, you work that into the equation too, which will only help you to keep all those energies balanced and this will help keep you healthy. When that article is finished, I will link it here.

The Seasons

Chinese Medicine was developed over thousands of years of observations of nature, human beings and their relationship to each other. In times past we have always had a symbiotic relationship, the earth nourished us with its bounty and we tended and nurtured the planet in a continuous cycle of loving interaction. Human beings followed the natural cycles of the planet and lived in harmony with the seasons.

The Summer Season

Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

Summer is the season associated with the heart, the colour red and the emotion of joy. In the hot summer months, people rose early and went to bed later to capitalize on the yang energy represented by outward expression and activity. They ate foods that grew in abundance, like fruits and fresh vegetables, eating salads and lighter fare, many of which are considered cooling to balance the external heat. People also took time to get together with family and friends, connecting and feeding their heart energy, as the heart is the organ associated with summer and with it, the emotion of joy. Everything we do in summer should be an attempt to cultivate the joy in our lives. Summer is the season to feed the heart energy, and in terms of foods, many red foods are good for the heart. Cooking methods should be lighter and of shorter duration to preserve all the freshness and nutrients the food has been soaking up from the summer sun. Eating should be lighter and in smaller portions and working to keep yin fluids plentiful to counteract the intense heat of the season.

The Fall Season

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Fall is the season associated with the lungs, the colour white and the emotion of grief. As the summer season winds down and the weather begins to cool, our behaviours go from the outward expressions of summer to the more inward and reflective activities of fall which will inevitably prepare us for winter. We eat foods that grow in abundance in this season (which varies greatly depending on where on the planet you are), but in North America, we see many foods with beautiful fall colours - squashes, gourds, sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkins... foods that grow in the ground and have more yang properties nourishing our inner heat as we prepare our bodies and spirits for the coming cold. Fall is a time to clear out the old, making space for the new. The energy of the lungs is "letting go" so that is the focus. Cleaning, reorganizing and donating are good practices in fall and make space for all we will cultivate over the winter. Emotionally, making sure that we have let go of any emotional hurts that have lingered is strengthening to the lungs both physically and psychologically. Many white foods are beneficial to the lungs and are good to add to the diet in the fall season. Organizing life and becoming more introspective before winter is what fall is all about, checking in to make sure we are emotionally healthy and not hanging on to things that no longer serve us.

The Winter Season

Photo by 8-Low Ural on Unsplash

Winter is the season associated with the kidneys, the colour black and the emotion of fear. Winter is the height of yin energies and even though it seems like a time of death, decay and inactivity, it is a season that is very active, just deep, deep beneath the surface in preparation for the regenerative activities of spring. It is a season of consolidation, gathering all energies and pulling them inward. Winter is the time of year to go to bed early and sleep later, profiting from the healing, restorative energies sleep offer us. In winter we eat less fresh foods as they are no longer available and eat more preserved foods we have prepared during the summer and fall. Eating warming foods, especially hearty soups and stews will help build our yang and counteract the cold. Our energies should turn inward in winter, while we focus on our fundamental energies, in Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are the source of our fundamental energy. Spending quiet time reading, writing or meditating are strengthening to our bodies and spirits. Keeping warm, especially our lower backs where our kidneys reside is especially important as they are the source of all our qi. Many black foods are strengthening to the kidneys and should be added to the diet in the winter months.

The Spring Season

Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash

Spring is associated with the liver, the colour green and the emotion of anger. Spring represents the upward and outward energies of newly growing plants, flowers and trees. The energy in spring is expansive, so it is a good time to shake off the sleepiness of the winter months and slowly start moving our bodies with gentle stretching going for long walks outdoors, taking in the revitalizing green of new plants through our eyes, which are the sense organ associated with the liver. Spring is the best time to detox from everything we have accumulated over the winter. We can detox physically, as well as emotionally. Acknowledging and processing any feelings of anger, resentment or frustration will keep our liver energy moving freely. Many green foods benefit the liver and cooking methods should be lighter and shorter duration to the slow cooking of winter, and as things begin to thaw, we are able to introduce more fresh foods into our diet. Awakening and cleansing our bodies and spirits are what we need in spring as well as gentle exercises like tai chi and qi gong which, especially when done outside in nature nourish body, mind and spirit.

If we can become aware of our surroundings and make slight adjustments to our behaviours and diet depending on the season we will see a huge benefit physically, emotionally and spiritually.

 

Beautiful featured image photo by Marta Filipczyk on Unsplash



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A Brief History and the Many Benefits of Acupuncture

By Dr. Marcia Steingraber

The history of acupuncture may not be as straightforward as is generally accepted. In fact, the first evidence of the practice (which is assumed to have originated in China) can be found in passing mentions in texts from around two centuries prior to the dawn of the 'Common Era' (or B.C.). The first mention of the practice that is beyond argument can be found in the medical text 'The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine' which was published in China in around 100 BCE (around BCE - or 'Before the Common Era'). There is evidence that sharpened bone slivers from much further back in history might have been used in acupuncture - however, it is recognized that these may have been used in other ways such as the drawing or letting of blood. Whatever the case, acupuncture has a long history as a treatment for a variety of ailments.

Today the practice of acupuncture (which consists of inserting thin needles into the skin at various depths) is an important part of holistic medicine. It has been accepted by medical researchers that acupuncture can be of enormous benefit to those who are experiencing chronic pain. However, the many other benefits of the practice that are claimed by those who administer acupuncture are still under investigation. One of the challenges of the ongoing research is that those investigating the benefits of the practice are still unsure of exactly how acupuncture works - does it (as is claimed by many traditionalists) balance the bodies' vital energies and improve the flow of 'Chi' (spiritual energy) through the insertion of the needles at the various meridians (there are 350 acupuncture points) of the
body, balancing out the opposing forces of 'yin' and 'yang' or does it have a measurable neurological effect (which would fit in more neatly to the Western concept of medicine).

Whatever the reason - as far as pain and discomfort is concerned, acupuncture works - and practitioners (as well as many beneficiaries of the practice) believe that it can be used to treat a multitude of diverse conditions, including persistent headaches [2], high (or low) blood pressure, dysentery, Biliary Colic, symptoms of ulcers and gastritis and a variety of conditions that affect mood and mental wellbeing such as depression. It has also been shown to be useful in the treatment of lower back and neck pain which is increasingly prevalent in Western society as a result of a sedentary lifestyle.

The idea that acupuncture may affect neurological systems [3] is one that is attractive to the adherents of modern medicine. the meridian points that are stimulated in traditional acupuncture are, in many cases at the nexus of nerve transmission and also places where muscles and various classes of connective tissue can be stimulated. This is turn stimulates the body's secretion of endorphins - natural painkillers and can also increase blood flow (which can reduce swelling and stimulate the repair of damaged internal structures).

For those who are suffering persistent pain, acupuncture provides an alternative to Westernized medicine and its focus on drug-fueled treatments. It is a holistic approach that is growing in popularity as consumers become more aware of the potential dangers of medicinal drug use.

Sources:
1. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (2008);
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2287209/
2. Acupuncture for Chronic Headaches - An Epidemiological Study (2006);
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16643558/
3. Acupuncture Effect and Central Autonomic Regulation (2013);
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3677642/

Beautiful featured image photo by Lian Rodríguez from Pexels


Dr. Marcia Steingraber is a practicing acupuncturist with a Doctorate in Acupuncture, specializing in Family Medicine with an emphasis in Fertility. Her focus is treating chronic pain, failed surgeries and internal disorders. Marcia’s true passion is rejuvenating her patients by relieving them of chronic pain or injuries.


A Simple Qi Gong for Healing

By John Voigt
(previously published on Qi-Encyclopedia)

This a simple Qigong for healing that I do for myself and occasionally teach. I hope some of you might enjoy some of it--especially the clip of Afro-Cuban conga drummer Potato Valdez with whom I had the honor of playing. His touch is focused Qi used with controlled muscular strength. It is music of power and joy that for me is full of the same combination of controlled muscular strength and focused Qi as the Fa-Jin of Kung Fu and Taijiquan.

It only takes five  to ten minutes to complete. Do it in the Morning, and before going to bed at night, or when you feel a problem or discomfort forming anywhere in the body. If any pain appears, or discomfort increases when practicing STOP DOING THE QIGONG! And see a medical professional if the pain or discomfort continues.

Here is the Practice:
Be Seated. Relax. Breathe softly, fully, deeply, gently, silently into the lower abdomen.
No forcing. Relax, empty your mind - [don't force, be natural.]

Feel yourself as a physical being.

Feel yourself as an energy being—and/or be aware of your breathing. Qi means life force energy and also breath/breathing.
Be aware of just being aware. Like Zen Mind. No words in the mind, when the words pop up, just let them pass and float away; or keep silently repeating 1-2-3-4-5.

Smile like the Mona Lisa.

Smile to the places that may need it. Do this 3 to 15 minutes once or twice a day. Visualize yourself as totally young, healthy and strong. An Amazon Angel perhaps? Or a Daoist Warrior-Scholar? Or you could just imagine a calm body of water, or beautiful mountains. Or a night time sky. Use whatever works to bring you to a place of silent but alert peacefulness.

Tap with love or at least send compassion to the situation muscles. Try tapping like Patato Valdez on your body, Notice how he is drawing the power out of the drum, not beating it. Do not tap on the top of the head. Or eyes, etc. This is a demonstration how to tap: (knifepoint qi sent in – explosive sound released out) Even though it is Afro-Cuban, I suggest the tapping techniques resemble certain ancient Asian trance-shaman percussionists. And in light of that, carefully experiment with your own dance free-form improvisations using the qigong and taijiquan moves you know and like to the video clip given here.

BATACUMBELE CON PATATO VALDEZ. "MI GUAGUANCO"


Shed The Pounds By Adding Goji Berries To Your Diet

By Sally Perkins

93.3 million Americans are obese and spend a whopping $147 billion U.S dollars on medical treatments alone. Obesity still remains a major risk factor for heart disease, a leading cause of death in the United States. While this may be prevalent among adults, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry consider the onset of obesity to occur between five and six years old, with an 80% chance of growing into an obese adult if this is not resolved before reaching twelve years old. Goji berries are a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believed to nourish the kidneys, liver, lungs, and stomach from ‘burn out’. Today, people predominantly consume this tonic herb for weight loss.  If you’re planning to turn your life around and make changes to your diet, start by including this bright orange-red berry dubbed as a ‘superfood’.

Goji Berry Benefits and Nutritional Value

Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are the fruits of a Chinese medicinal plant, and look similar to raisins, with a slightly sour taste. This fruit contain nutrients such as vitamin A, zinc, fiber, iron, and vitamin C essential for building the immunity of the body. However, goji berries are also famous for their weight loss and antioxidant properties.

Your Handy, Go-to Snack

Goji berries are low in carbohydrates, making them an ideal energy booster snack. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a study noting increased energy levels, better physical performances, and mental sharpness for test subjects taking goji berry juice for two weeks. Scoring low on the glycemic index (GI), this superfood is nutritious, while helping keep weight off.

Goji Berries Can Be Integrated in Most Diet Plans

The Atkins and Keto diets are low carbohydrate meal plans with varying portions of protein and fat. Berries are often used as part of the meal plan since they only contain 88 calories per quarter serving. These can be eaten raw, or used in smoothies mixed with other fruits or yogurt, or included in banana-stuffed pancakes, jams and pastries, such as almond and Goji berries brownies. The Atkins diet focuses on controlling insulin levels in the body using a four-phase low carbohydrate meal plan to achieve a healthy weight and maintain it. As part of your meal plan, use one serving of dried goji berries. Ideally, these berries may be added between phase 2 (balancing) to phase 4 (maintenance).

Meanwhile, a Ketogenic diet is a high fat and low carbohydrate diet to achieve nutrition ketosis, a process where your body uses fat (ketones) as fuel instead of your usual carbohydrates. This type of diet plan works best with intermittent fasting, so you should only take the berries before your fasts. If you’re still starting with this type of diet, having six small meals per day may help you develop an eating pattern, allowing your body time to adjust.

Finding Out What Works Best For You

Goji berries work well with various meal plans because of its ‘neutral’ nature. Meaning, you can consume these berries without gaining weight. Adapting a different meal plan may take some time for some people. However, lifestyle changes rarely happen overnight so expect to take this weight loss process one step at a time.



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