Chinese Holistic Medicine Could Be The Ideal All-Round Treatment For Stress

By Sally Perkins

Western medicine has long espoused its own benefits while prescribing treatments from eastern and Chinese medicines as complementary. However, research is beginning to show that Chinese medicine can stand on its own two feet when it comes to certain conditions, including stress, as outlined in an influential study conducted by the University of Edmonton. When conducted with the supervision of experts and in a controlled manner, an anti-stress regimen lead entirely by Chinese medicine can be very effective.

Treatment Without Intrusion

Chinese medicine can effectively mitigate stress without ever requiring the prescription of medicine. Stress is a serious condition that impacts countless people and while many will brush it off on the odd occasion, several flare ups of stress can lead to long term consequences. As stress can strike anywhere – the commute to work being a common place, in addition to the comfort of the home – it’s important to find methods that can be called on for relief at any time. Chinese medicine has long provided for this through routines like tai chi. One article by NBC noted studies that found tai chi could be the best way to improve sleep and reduce long term stress. Most importantly, exercises it provides can be conducted at a miniature scale throughout the day to deal with sharp rises in stress, as well as creating a lower background level.

Using Medication

Stress, when left untreated, can manifest as long term conditions such as anxiety and depression. From here, the best solution is often a mix of western medicine and psychological treatment. As a result, up to 1 in 6 Americans are prescribed with anti-anxiety drugs today. However, what if many people could tackle their stress before it develops into something more?


This photo by Gratisography on pexels.com

It goes without saying that many people are diagnosed with anxiety and depression for reasons other than overwhelming stress, but, for those who are, Chinese medicine can be used early and effectively to help alleviate symptoms and boost recovery. Acupuncture, for example, has been found by studies to have a statistically significant reduction on stress, according to one Metro summary.

A Way of Life

If medicine is not required, then Americans can look to some core beliefs in Chinese society that can help to alleviate stress. American life is very stressful; a Psychology Today analysis found that over 57% of those surveyed reported significant levels of stress. According to Viacom, a lower percentage reported such feelings in China, and a significant amount reported being happier. While there are many factors contributing to these findings, the basics of life seem important. According to Viacom’s research, Chinese people are 60% more likely to than others globally to take simple self-care steps to reduce stress, including walks, listening to positive music and connecting with family.

Stress is a complex condition, but there are more ways to deal with it than just the one. Chinese medicine is a proven way to tackle it holistically, though medication, self-care and relaxation techniques. Try looking at your self-care routines and adjusting them, with the guidance of your physician.


This image from Negative Space on pixels.com

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Featured image from Pixabay


Living in Harmony with Spring According to Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Theory

Chinese Medicine has such a beautiful way of looking at us - human beings, our place in nature and in the universe. We are part of a greater whole, and are inseparable from it. In Chinese Medicine, we are healthy when we are in harmony with our surroundings, and for much of human history, we have honed the skills needed to be able to feel slight changes in our environments, so that we could change behaviours, to remain in balance. In our modern world, we seem to be losing this connectedness to both our natural environments, and ultimately, ourselves. Chinese Medicine can teach us how to regain this connection by giving us some simple guidelines on how to live in harmony with the seasons.

Spring - The Season of the Liver

Spring is the season associated with the Liver and the emotion of Anger. Its energies are expansive - moving upward and outward like newly budding plants, flowers and trees. It is a time for growth and renewal. Spring is the best time to strengthen the Liver, and to deal with any unresolved feelings of Anger or frustration as they can build up and cause stagnant Qi or energy in the Liver and elsewhere. The colour associated with Spring and the Liver is green. Eating green foods in the Spring strengthens the Liver. To keep your Liver healthy, be sure to be in bed and asleep before 11pm.

The Liver is the organ associated with Spring. In Chinese Medicine the Liver has the following responsibilities:

  • Opens Into the Eyes
  • Controls Planning
  • The Flavour that Supports the Liver is Sour
  • Houses the Hun (Spirit) The Liver is the organ associated with Spring.
  • Stores Blood
  • Responsible for the Smooth Flow of Qi & Blood
  • Controls the Sinews / Tendons
  • Manifests in the Nails

Behaviours in Spring

  • Engaging in uplifting and creative activities that expand our energies and consciousness (journaling, meditation)
  • Seek personal development and growth
  • Cooking should be of shorter duration and at higher temperatures
  • Sautéing with high quality oil over high heat, or light steaming with water is best in Spring
  • Manage Anger (and frustration) - excess, intense and unexpressed anger congests Qi in the Liver
  • Liver time is between 1am-3am - this is the best time to strengthen the Liver
  • For optimum Liver health, go to bed before 11pm (the Gallbladder time - it is the Liver’s Yin/Yang partner organ)
  • Eat green foods to strengthen Liver

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Activities in Spring

  • Engage in activities that feed your creativity - drawing/painting/writing/photography/making music/dancing
  • Making plans for the future
  • Spring cleaning of internal environment - physical, emotional, spiritual
  • Acknowledging, processing and releasing any unresolved emotions, especially Anger & frustration
  • Any activities that push our self imposed boundaries
  • Gentle exercises on a daily basis, especially stretching as the Liver controls the smooth flow of Qi as well as the tendons
  • Walking meditation in nature (gentle exercise, feeding the spirit and taking in the green of new Spring plants through the eyes)
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs

Beneficial Foods in Spring

  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Sprouted Grains, Beans, Seeds
  • Many Green Foods Nourish the Liver
  • Radish
  • Daikon Radish
  • Tofu
  • Fermented Food
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Dandelion Root
  • Milk Thistle
  • Mung Bean
  • Lettuce
  • Quinoa
  • Cucumber
  • Watercress
  • Celery
  • Millet
  • Seaweed
  • Mushroom
  • Beet
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Mustard Green
  • Rye
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Asparagus
  • Alfalfa
  • Amaranth

Photo by Scott Eckersley on Unsplash

The Liver and Anger

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

We've all seen that impressive display of anger. Someone losing it in the lineup at the bank, an exasperated parent yelling at a child having a tantrum, or someone, after being on a plane for a bazillion hours being told that they have missed their connecting flight and that the airline has lost their luggage. Yeah, we've all seen that. And it is most of our instincts' to back away a few steps because of how powerful that anger can be. That, my friends, is your Liver talking.

Now in the West, this doesn't make much sense. The liver, we are taught, is the body's filter, making sure that we stay clean and toxin free. But in Chinese Medicine, each of the organs has an emotional component, which is just as important as its physical functions in the body - and the emotion of the liver is anger.

When the liver is balanced and healthy we are able to move freely because of the liver's responsibilities of governing the smooth flow of Qi in the appropriate directions. You may wonder what happens when Qi flows in the wrong direction? Well, each of the organs has a natural direction in which its Qi flows. For example, the Qi of the stomach flows downward, helping to move food and drink through the digestive system, but when the flow of that Qi is reversed due to pathogenic factors it causes belching, hiccups, nausea and vomiting. A healthy liver means a strong immune system because the liver is responsible for the body's resistance to exterior pathogens. Because the liver opens into the eyes, if you have a healthy liver your vision will be clear and your eyes moist. If your liver is in a state of balance you will have strong nails, recover quickly from physical activities, your movements will be smooth and your body flexible. Those with a healthy liver will also have great courage and resoluteness, and will easily be able to plan their lives wisely and effectively with a clear sense of direction.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Some Symptoms of Liver Stagnation & Imbalance

  • Frustration, depression or repressed anger
  • Hypochondriac pain
  • Sensation of oppression in the chest
  • A feeling of a "lump" in the throat
  • Abdominal distension
  • Women - pre-menstrual tension, depression, irritability, distension of the breasts
  • Belching, sour regurgitation, nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bitter taste in the mouth, belching, jaundice
  • Contraction and/or spasms in the muscles and sinews, impaired extension/flexion, numbness of the limbs, muscle cramps, tremors
  • Dark, dry or cracked nails
  • Blurred vision, myopia, floaters, colour blindness, a feeling of dryness or grit in the eyes
  • Bloodshot, painful or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Irritability, outbursts of anger, red face, dizziness, tinnitus, headaches
  • Lack of direction in life, feeling of being stuck

Chinese Medicine gives us many ways that we can help our bodies, mind and spirits stay balanced and healthy - in every season. Eating green foods, spending more time turning inward, processing our emotions and being in bed by 11pm are only some of the ways we can live in harmony with the spring season, and keep our energies flowing freely so we can be happy, healthy beings all year long.

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Beautiful featured image photo by Sylwia Pietruszka on Unsplash

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If you would like a downloadable sheet on how to live in harmony with the Spring season according to Chinese Medicine, you can get one here - Spring Season in Chinese Medicine. If you are a practitioner and would like this sheet to share with patients, then please visit here - Spring Season - Professional.


Meditation: Improve Your Health in 20 Minutes a Day

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Chinese Medicine Says - Balance Equals Health

Chinese Medicine is all about balance. Balance in all aspects of life is what keeps us healthy and keeps disease away. In a time long ago, this balance was the normal way of life for most people, and they understood the importance of doing things in moderation - like eating, physical activity, expressing of emotions and all aspects of life. Chinese Medicine has always taught that this moderation in all things is the way to achieve balance and is ultimately the path to health. When something in life becomes unbalanced, illness can result. When this happens there are wonderful tools to help put the body, mind, and spirit back into a harmonious state - like acupuncture, Chinese herbs, moxibustion, gua sha and tui na. These are just some of the tools that Chinese Medicine has in its formidable toolbox. But ultimately, the goal is to live a balanced life so that illness never has a chance to develop, Chinese medicine is a medicine of prevention.

Losing Our Equilibrium

Now, many of us are living unbalanced lives in an increasingly unbalanced world. Finding the equilibrium that our ancestors enjoyed becomes more difficult as we live in a world that is more complex, and needs us to work more in a time where most of us are able to have less. There is a growing disparity between people who have and those who have not. Cities are growing as nature dwindles. People are being pushed, working more, sleeping less and getting sick because that balance has been lost. So what can we do? It is not realistic to quit the jobs we need to survive, and many of us live lives that we must and not the lives we would like to. One of the ways that we can get back to that balance, that equilibrium that keeps us aligned and happy is to slow down, sit and listen.

What is Meditation?

Meditation - Finding A Way Back to Balance

There are many ways to meditate, and everyone needs to find the one or the ones that are right for them. For some, walking is a wonderful healing type of meditation. For others, painting, cooking or writing poetry is their meditation of choice. I like to define a meditation as being in a state of complete harmony and flow. Like you are completely connected to the universe and in a state of bliss where time completely disappears. This is only my definition, but a similar sensation has been described by others in a state of deep meditation. It is like being in a complete and all-encompassing state of mindfulness.

Practical Meditation

In all my years of treating patients, I have found meditation to be one of the most effective healing tools, and one of the most empowering for patients. I often give patients a "prescription" for daily meditation to help them with their health and overall well-being. There are lots of reasons why it is such a great healing tool and why people love it so much. Here are just a few:

  • You can choose a meditation technique or practice that resonates with you - it is highly individualized
  • You can do it in the privacy of your own home
  • You do not need any special gear or equipment (although a lovely meditation cushion is so nice)
  • Meditations positive effects can be felt by doing it in as little as a few minutes a day
  • You can use your creativity to design a practice and a space that supports your meditation practice
  • The beneficial effects will ripple out into all aspects of your life
  • The positive effects will be felt by the people around you
  • With time, you will be able to handle stress and other difficult situations with more equanimity
  • Your memory, concentration and mood will be improved
  • You will have better quality of sleep
  • The power of this healing tool is completely in your hands

The list of meditations benefits is really enormous and there isn't enough room here to list them all. But for practical reasons, I can share an example of a meditation practice that can help to rebalance mind, body and spirit as well as all the benefits listed above.

Creating a Beautiful Space

One of the first things you can do, is to create a beautiful, calming, peaceful space where you will do your meditation. If you can, remove all electronic devices so that the space is quiet and you will not be disturbed. Keep the space clean and clutter free as this will help eliminate distractions while you are meditating. If you have a meditation cushion, you can arrange it so that it is appealing to the eye and when you look at the space in its entirety, it gives you a feeling of calm and joy. I am lucky to have a beautiful meditation cushion (which is from the lovely people at Chattra) - whenever I look at it, it makes my heart so happy and I thoroughly enjoy sitting on it. I don't have a lot of space, so I create a tiny space for myself with my cushion and a mosquito net which is lovely and really gives it an enchanted feel. Create your space however you desire, using objects (or the lack of objects) that make you happy and help to create a feeling of calm and serenity.

This is my lovely meditation space with my beautiful Chattra meditation cushion. If you would like one of your very own,
you can see all their beautiful designs here in their shop and enjoy 10% off (see coupon below).

20 Minutes to Health

You can choose however long you like in terms of your meditation practice, but I suggest that if it is new to you, to start slowly. You can start with just five or ten minutes a day and work up from there. I find that a good number is twenty minutes a day, or if you are ambitious, twenty minutes twice a day, morning and evening. Twice a day is ideal as it acts as a primer for the day and a bit of a cleansing of the days energies before bed to ensure a good, restful, rejuvenating sleep. If you can set aside twenty minutes when you wake up before you start your morning routine, you will find that you will set your intention for the day and be better able to focus as well as being better able to handle difficult situations. The more you meditate, the more you will find this equanimity in your life and in all things. In the evening, do everything you need to do and do your meditation right before sleep. You will find that the quality of your sleep will improve and you will wake up feeling more rested and ready to start your day with positivity and awareness.

The Meditation

As mentioned above, there are many different types of meditation, and I always recommend to patients that they find the one that feels right for them. A good way to start if you are looking for ideas is to sit comfortably in your meditation space and begin to focus on your breathing. Focus on your breath moving in and out of your body. I sometimes suggest trying to focus on breathing light into the top of your head, gathering the breath and all dark energy, emotions or experiences we are finished with, illness, pain or trauma and breathe it out with every breath. Sometimes, when you begin, it is good to have something to focus on and this one has worked for me, and for my patients.

Keep breathing deeply in and out focussing solely on the breath. Your mind will inevitably wander, but when you notice you are somewhere else in your mind, gently bring yourself back to the breath. At first, your mind will be all over the place - this is called monkey mind by the Buddhists (and here is a great definition) - but just keep bringing yourself back to the breath. This will get easier and easier the more you meditate. And try not to be hard on yourself. There are days when you will do nothing but bring your mind back to the breath, over and over again. But over time, you will find that you will have to do this less and less and that your mind will settle into a peaceful quiet which will allow you to connect to yourself in a way you may not have done before, and that is a wonderful thing indeed.

Chinese Medicine Living readers can enjoy this 10% off coupon in the Chattra shop. Visit www.chattra.com or click on the coupon below.

Chattra Meditation Cushion Review

If you would like to read my review of the lovely Chattra meditation cushion, you may do so here - Chattra Meditation Cushion Review

 



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



The Most Important Qigong – III (Standing Post Zhan Zhuang)

By John Voigt

This is the third and concluding article about Standing Post, a qigong pose of stillness, complete relaxation, and no observable movement. It features two versions of Standing Post, the latter version attributed to the legendary qigong master, Dr. Yan Xin http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm .

A list of books, online articles, and videos about Standing Post – Zhan Zhuang will be given at the end at the end of this article.

Many masters of Chinese health, martial arts, and spiritual practices say this type standing meditation is the most important of all exercises to do. The previous two articles about Standing Post appeared in the January and February 2018 issues of Chinese Medical Living. The Most Important Qigong - Standing Post Zhan Zhuang & The Most Important Qigong - Standing Post Zhan Zhuang II

Standing Post With Seven Imaginary Beach Balls, complied by
John Voigt

This image from https://sciencekungfu.wordpress.com/tag/zhan-zhuang/

First and most important: Have the entire body and mind complexly relaxed ignoring any discomfort—but if there is any pain immediately stop doing this exercise.

The feet stand straight ahead at approximately a shoulder’s width. The knees are slightly bent and never protrude past the toes. The spine is straight. The chin is slightly tucked in. Imagine that the crown of the head is gently being pulled up by a thread to the heavens.

The tongue rests on the palate. The eyes are half closed (as the Chinese say, “Look but don’t look). Breathe softly, slowly, deeply through the nose in a natural rhythmic way down into the lower abdomen. Don’t think, but do be silently aware of what is happening internally in the body; in other words keep the mental focus on your posture and especially on how it feels.

Hold an imaginary beach ball. The picture shows a typical way, at the upper chest, but the ball can be held at a higher or lower position. The hands and wrists are relaxed with the fingers pointing at each other; the thumbs point to the upward. The shoulders and elbows are also relaxed.

Next imagine that your elbows are resting on smaller beach balls, and that you are holding a smaller ball in each of your underarms, and one between your upper thighs.

Now imagine a super-sized beach ball and sit back on it (like sitting on the edge of a bar stool). Be careful—seriously, don’t fall over, this is imaginary after all. We want the weight of the trunk, head and upper limbs to rest on the thighs; and the weight of the body to be evenly distributed on both feet.

At the end of doing the Standing Post pose do some mild stretches, and it’s also good to take a walk.

Dr. Yan Xin on Zhan Zhuang

Image from www.china.com

The legendary Qigong master Dr. Yan Xin (born 1950 - ) http://www.yanxinqigong.net/aboutdryan/index.htm (pronounced “Yan Shen”) wrote the following: Now we talk about Standing Post (Zhan Zhuang). You always need to stand in the correct and relaxed way, then the movement is very easily learned; with just one "stand" you'll get it. But if you stand in your old incorrect way, that will easily produce or make you feel irritable and bored. Then you will loose any interest in learning it or doing Standing Post. It will be difficult to get started and gain any significant progress or results that way. Therefore, for those who say that they want to do this practice, we must nurture and cultivate their interest, and their desire to learn. How is this done? By having them recognize the importance of qigong and become aware of its many benefits. [From Eighty Characters: The Essentials of Qigong Practice. http://www.yanxinqigong.cn/fali/temp_lifa_yaoling_80zi_01.htm ].

[John Voigt speaking:] In the early 1990s my Chinese language tutor, Ms. Sheng Xue, learned Standing Post in Beijing from Dr. Yan Xin, or at times from his teaching assistants. (Dr. Yan moved to California in 1990, but made many trips back to China to do healings sessions with the then Premier.) She kindly gave me the following description of what he taught :

Preparation: “In the morning face east; during the night face north. Relax and the energy comes. [Note: In the profound words of Ms. Sheng, “You don't ‘have it,’ (if you think that) the qi-energy (will) go away.”] Have fingers not too tight—just a little bit open. Arms go up horizontally at sides to palms over the head to guide qi into the crown of the head (baihui). Then have palms gently and slowly come down in front of you which by itself—and without any word directions or mental will power—will cause the qi to flow inside through the face, eyes, lungs, into the dantian. Don't direct qi after its entrance in the baihui; just mentally focus on being aware of your dantian[the life energy storage center in the lower abdomen] and allow the qi to flow naturally down into the dantian. End by placing the hands over the dantian; then palms face the ground; drop hands slowly—that way the qi that has been built up is not lost.” [Note: this preparation is an example of the widely practiced Daoist qigong form, “Drawing (or “Pulling”) Down the Heavens.”]

Ball Holding Stance: More from Ms. Sheng: “Next slowly go into ‘Ball Holding Stance.’ Take three deep breaths, then [sit] down on the horse. Just standing you feel qi in the arms and hands—then it going into the bones. Then into shoulders; then upper legs, lower legs and feet; then shoulders and neck. Feet [pointed slightly in] helps keep knees from overlapping the toes. Think happy thoughts like family, [or being in beautiful] nature. Slowly go into ‘Ball Holding Stance.’ Take three deep breaths, then [sit] down on the horse. Feel hot qi in the arms. Do not go to thighs parallel with ground [i.e., extreme deep knee bends] unless [under the direction of a experienced] teacher. Expect to get hot [because of qi buildup] as well as working up a good sweat—this is a muscle exercise after all. Stand Pole [sic] has large quantities of life energy—qi power arms, legs and body.” End the same as beginning [with Drawing Down the Heavens] . . . then slowly place hands above dantian; then hands slowly return to the sides.

Concluding Odds and Ends

Zhan Zhuang in Chinese characters is站 ,and pronounced Jan [sinking tone] Jwong [high tone].

About Dr. Yan Xin. See: Yan Xin Qigong at http://yanxinqigong.net/
Many believe him to be one of the most outstanding qigong masters of all times in both in scientific experimentation, teaching, healing, and exhibiting paranormal abilities.

Highlights as a Healer: After a three year exile to the United States, he returned to Beijing to help heal the Chinese premier Deng Zhou Ping, who was dying of advanced metastasized cancer. Both Eastern and Western medical doctors had given up on Deng's survival, and the enemies of Qigong brought Dr. Yan back to China in the hopes of discrediting him and Medical Qigong. Deng Zhou Ping did not practice the qigong that Yan Xin asked of him, but at least Yan Xin was able to keep the Premier alive for another year and a half, essentially by his living off of Dr. Yan's bioenergy (Qi). This precipitated the "legalization" of Qigong in China under the [auspices of the] government controlled Chinese "Sports Authority."
http://www.michaelshaman.com/dr-yan-xin.html

He also went to the U.S. White House eight times to give energy treatments to President Bush, Sr., which gives some explanation to Bush’s paratroop jump in his 80s!
https://www.mind-energy.net/archives/246-the-highest-technology-of-all-technologies-the-yan-xin-secret.html

Since the 1990s, Yan Xin's main activities of teaching, writing, and participating in scientific research on external qi used for healing have been in the United States, and Canada.

A short biography exists on the Encyclopedia of Chinese Culture. https://contemporary_chinese_culture.academic.ru/907/Yan_Xin

As an example of his qigong superstardom, including some improvisational spontaneous standing meditation go to严新气功功理功法精选 1 [Yan Xin Qigong power law selection 1] on YouTube - [only in Chinese].
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvdet8nmSOw

For Further Study: Books – Articles – Essays - Videos
Kenneth S. Cohen. The Way of Qigong; pp. 133-143. Ballantine Books, 1997.

Michael P. Garofalo. “Standing Meditation," research by Michael P. Garofalo [at]
http://www.egreenway.com/taichichuan/wuji.htm

Karel Koskuba. Zhan Zhuang. [at] http://www.yiquan.org.uk/art-zz.html

Master Lam Kam Chuen. The Way of Energy. Simon & Schuster, 1991.

John Voigt. “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

“Wang Xiangzhai.” [at] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Xiangzhai

Wang Xiangzhai: Entering the Quiet State; [at] http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/03/wang-xiangzhai-entering-quiet-state.html

Wang Xiangzhai. “Seek Fullness of Spirit and Intention.” [at] http://mitqigong.blogspot.com/2011/04/wang-xiangzhai-seek-fullness-of-spirit.html .

Wang Xuanjie & John Moffett. Traditional Chinese Therapeutic Exercises: Standing Pole; [text in English]. Foreign Languages Press, 1994. [Has seven standing forms, five seated postures, four lying postures, and three moving postures. Master Wang said that Zhan Zhuang can even be adapted and used by people without arms or legs.]

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit. Stance Training and becoming a Scholar-Warrior
[at] http://shaolin.org/general-2/stance-training.html .

Yiquan: Collection of Essays 1996-2010, (e-book); published by Andrzej Kalisz. Yiquan Academy International Network. [at] http://www.scribd.com/doc/44719012/Yiquan-essays .

Yu Yong Nian. “Still Life,” Metro Beijing, March 23, 2011. https://www.scribd.com/doc/145816955/Still-Life-Yu-Yong-Nian-on-Zhan-Zhuang .

Videos on the Internet
Ken Gullette. Zhan Zhuang: Standing Stake Tai Chi Lesson. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnckgTx3-rE .

Standing Meditation Basics - Yiquan Masters Demonstrate. YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtUKTd2WKsc&feature=related .

Zhan Zhuang Lineage and Memorial. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OIcCTrLsCA

Sources of Pictures
Holding The Ball. https://sciencekungfu.wordpress.com/tag/zhan-zhuang/
Dr. Yan Xin. http://news.china.com/history/all/11025807/20161226/30114727_all.html


Essential Oils for Health & Wellness

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

A Brief History of Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used by traditional cultures for thousands of years, and were some of the most highly valued possessions of traditional peoples, along with jewels and precious metals. Essential oils are considered to be the distillation of both the intelligence and spirit of the plants they come from. They have been used throughout history for their medicinal, emotional, aromatic and spirit enhancing effects. In recent years there has been a revival in the use of essential oils, many people use them in their homes, healthcare practitioners use them to offer patients an alternative to conventional treatments like medications, and companies are using essential oils in their products as natural alternatives to chemical ingredients.

My own experience with essential oils goes back as far as I can remember. Long before I became an acupuncturist, I used them in my home for things like cleaning, for making skin and hair care products as well as aromatherapy, and in my medicine cabinet to help heal a wide variety of problems. When I began treating patients as an acupuncturist, essential oils were a vital part of my toolbox. I have always loved the versatility that essential oils afford the person and certainly the practitioner. They have been an invaluable part of my practice, and I am always humbled at how powerful they can be to correct a huge number of imbalances and heal on a multitude of different levels.

Essential Oils At Home

I think that many people may not be aware of the enormous versatility of essential oils that you can use in your home to make everyday products. In an age where we are bombarded by toxins (you can read more about this here - 5 Toxins to Avoid for Better Health - essential oils offer the ability to make these products knowing they are pure, health-promoting and toxin free. You can make household cleaners, skin and hair products (some of the worst offenders in terms of toxicity), soaps and lotions as well as using a diffuser to gently release certain oils into the air to detoxify, cleanse the air and for health reasons - like certain oils that act as decongestants when you or your family are suffering with a cold. There are oils for relaxation and stress, you can add them to the bathtub to help calm - I use this often for my very high energy 2-year-old baby boy, and it works smashingly. Oils can also be put into laundry soap, on rags in the dryer instead of dryer sheets, and a drop or two placed onto a pillow or bed sheets to help freshen things up or aid with things like insomnia, stress or depression.

This lovely photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

Essential Oils In Health Care

I use essential oils every day in my clinic with my patients. They are simply another tool that I have in my healing toolbox. There are many ways in which to use essential oils for healing. In Chinese Medicine theory heat and cold are properties that contribute to health and disease. Essential oils also have heating and cooling properties, as well as having affinities for certain organs and meridians, so with this knowledge, I am able to use them on patients depending on both their constitution as well as what is ailing them. There are many ways that I use them - sometimes I apply them to specific acupuncture points, sometimes I mix them into massage oil to massage into certain points of areas of the body and sometimes I put oils into the diffuser for a more subtle effect. I often prescribe their use for patients at home, suggesting adding them to a bath, or massaging them into specific points when certain symptoms appear. For patients to participate in their own healing is the goal and essential oils are a wonderful way to help the process.

Using Essential Oils with Children & Babies

Since I have had children - and I have two, a two-year-old and a six-month-old - I have found that massage and essential oils are the most useful things I have to deal with everyday health matters. They also serve calm an excited child before a nap or sleep at night, dealing with anxiety, excessive crying in a colicky baby, and just keeping a chaotic house as relaxed and delicious smelling as humanly possible. Acupuncture is difficult on small children mostly because they have a hard time sitting still, so essential oils have been my go-to for everything that has to do with my babies, from their overall health, the state of their emotions and their wellbeing.

But, because they are so small and their systems so delicate, dosages and dilution are very important. You would always use way less of an oil on a child compared to an adult, and a good rule of thumb is to put any oil you are using medicinally into a carrier oil (I use coconut oil most of the time) and apply it to the feet as they are the farthest away from important organs. When my son gets a cold, I use various oils in this way which always helps clear his congestion, makes him more comfortable and I find that he gets over things a lot faster. With my baby girl, I tend to put a few drops of various oils into the diffuser when she isn't feeling well and I always find this helps her feel better, calmer and helps her sleep (which when you have 2 babies in your house is vital!!).

The other thing I have found is how powerful our olfactory senses are and the connection they have to our health and emotions. I find that just a drop of my favourite scent on my pillow after a long, intense day with 2 small children has a hugely calming effect on my nerves and psyche. A few drops on the sheets freshens up the room and makes for better sleeps. Some lavender on the temples helps you relax and all that tension you had in your jaws, neck, and shoulders, seems to just melt away. The therapeutic effects of essential oils are really limitless, and I know I am so grateful to have an arsenal to help me keep my children healthy without toxic chemicals while also being kind to the environment. Win/win!

Essential Oil Safety

It is important to remember that essential oils are medicine, and need to be used with caution. Like herbs, they can be very powerful and it is important to educate yourself about the oils properties, as well as any contraindications before using them therapeutically. Most commercially produced essential oils are used in the food and perfume industry (about 95%). However, when using them in your home for cleaning, skin or hair products or anything that will come in contact with your body, please be sure that you use high quality, therapeutic grade oils, that are extracted in a clean way and not using toxic chemicals. Here are some very good safety guidelines for using essential oils. When using essential oils directly on the body (and the best advice is to never use them directly on the body without diluting them or using a carrier oil) is to be careful of how much you are using or how much to dilute them. This is especially important when using them with children. You can find useful information at the link above about how to dilution ratios.

Natural Medicines

I am a firm believer that the cure for every disease that exists on this planet is available in its forests, rainforests, and jungles. Natural medicines have been healing human beings since the beginning of time. So many cultures have the wisdom to cure using these natural, plant-based medicines. This wisdom has largely been forgotten by Allopathic (Western) medicine that chooses to use petroleum-based pharmaceuticals to treat symptoms that are the result of our modern diseases.

This beautiful photo by Trần Anh Tuấn on Unsplash

From everything that I know about Chinese medicine, and indeed many of the wisdom traditions that have been around for thousands of years, the key to staying healthy is to live a healthy and balanced life. This has been increasingly difficult because many of us live in an unbalanced, toxic culture. For us now, I believe that living in the most natural way possible is the key to health. Eliminating toxins, eating clean, natural, fresh foods, drinking clean water, getting enough sleep and when we do become sick, using natural medicines to get us well again. Acupuncture, herbs, exercise, a healthy diet (using food as medicine) as well as things like essential oils are the best ways I know of to keep us all healthy, and if we fall ill, to bring us back to health again. Incorporating as many of these into our lives and our homes will ensure that we stay as healthy as we can, and empower us to heal ourselves when we are sick.

This beautiful photo by Vero Photoart on Unsplash

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Featured image photo by Kelly Sikkema 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 - Black Bean Congee to Promote Kidney Health

By NourishU

Eating in Winter According to Chinese Medicine

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.

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 a 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 dang shen, ginseng, astragalus, reishi mushroom, longan fruit and deer horn, etc. to promote yang energy.

For people who are hot in nature, they should use moderating foods such as spinach, eggplant, crab, white turnip, persimmon, honeydew, bitter melon and pineapple to moderate the heat.

For people who have a moderate constitution (neither too hot nor too cold), they should use moderately warm herbs such as Chinese yam, goji-berries, American ginseng, glehnia and Solomon's seal to maintain a healthy balance.

Black Bean Congee

Therapeutic Effects

Promotes kidney health.

Ingredients

  • Black beans 黑豆 – 2 spoonfuls
  • Little red bean 紅小豆 – one spoonful
  • Chinese Yam (shan yao) 山藥 – 30gm
  • Goji-berry / Chinese Wolfberry (gou ji zi) 枸杞子 – 10 to 20
  • Rice – half a cup

Directions

1.   Soak beans and yam for 2 hours and rinse.

2.   Soak goji-berry for 30 minutes and rinse.

3.   Rinse rice. Bring 4 cups of water in a pot to a boil and put in all ingredients. Boil again, lower heat to medium and cook for about 45 minutes or until beans are soft. Add water if necessary.

Usage

No limitation. Eat in the evening with dinner for best results.

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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.

**Photo by Sandra Frey on Unsplash


Diet and Spirituality: Feeding the Mind, Body, and Soul

By freelance writer Sally Perkins

The idea that food can be a direct route to health and happiness is a belief that’s been long held by proprietors of traditional Chinese medicine. Recipes have passed down through generations that are used to help prevent and treat disease, slow down the aging process, or simply improve overall fitness. To this day, many households that use a traditional approach to health consider the pantry to be synonymous with the medicine cabinet.

In traditional Chinese medicine, food is more than just sustenance. It’s a healthy lifestyle choice that has a significant impact on your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Practitioners of traditional medicine promote the idea that a carefully crafted diet plan should be the first line of defense against any illness or ailment. Traditional medicine has shaped many common Chinese dishes that include a wide variety of vegetables and meats considered to have positive health benefits. Different health call for different ingredients, including herbs, spices, and vegetables that are known to have healing properties.

Dampness

Foods that are damp in nature can slow the digestive system and interfere with the flow of energy throughout your body. This blockage can lead to pain, disease, chronic allergies, and even arthritis. Signs of dampness can include congestion and excessive mucus formation, indigestion, weight gain, and swelling in the joints.

Foods to Include

  • Cooked vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans, lentils, and legumes
  • Lean protein
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Seaweed and kelp
  • Nuts and seeds

Foods to Avoid

  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Refined sugars
  • Processed flour
  • Coffee and alcohol
  • Bananas and avocado

Yin Deficiency

Responsible for keeping you cool, a deficiency with your yin can lead to overheating and fever. Yin is closely associated with the kidneys, which function to remove toxins from your system. An imbalance in your Yin can be the result of stress or overwork, but it may also be due to an inadequate diet.

Foods to Include

  • Barley, millet, and other whole grains
  • Beans and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Fruits such as apples, pears, and bananas
  • Seafood and red meat

Foods to Avoid

  • Hot or spicy foods
  • Caffeine, cigarettes, and other stimulants
  • Sugars

Yang Deficiency

Also often a result of improper kidney functioning, a deficiency in Yang energy is characterized by soreness in the joints and lumbar region, cold sensations in the limbs, difficulty urinating, incontinence, and a decreased libido.

Foods to Include

  • Berries and nuts
  • Red meats such as lamb and venison
  • Seafood
  • Strong spices such as black pepper, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, peppermint, and more

Foods to Avoid

  • Cold foods and liquids
  • Raw food

According to traditional Chinese medicine, a balance between flavor and nutrition helps to promote both physical and spiritual well being. By eating the right foods, you can keep your body in balance and reduce or alleviate the symptoms of certain chronic conditions.

 

**Beautiful featured image by Blair Fraser on Unsplash