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.


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Essential Oils Still Favored By Modern-Day Chinese Medicine Practitioners

By Sally Perkins

The use of essential oils continues to skyrocket in popularity, with an increasing number of people embracing the power of these oils to not only address various health concerns but improve general well-being as well. While the effectiveness of essential oils is still often questioned, they have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with great success. Even today, Chinese medicine practitioners make use of various essential oils when administering acupuncture, aromatherapy, and other treatments.

Essential oils have a long history

Essential oils are representative of the essence (jing) of plants and have been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. According to ancient belief, essential oils can impact the physical, mental and spiritual realms of the body, as the jing of the plants resonate with the body’s own jing. When used in TCM, essential oils can impact an individual in one of five ways. They can aid in healing and relaxation. They can boost healing in non-healing wounds. They can enhance nobility and improve self-esteem, and they can be conducive to a milder temperament.


Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

The applications are varied

The use of essential oils in Chinese medicine is very diverse. Topical application is used during cranial-sacral work to address a range of health concerns. Essential oil is also commonly placed on various acupuncture points to affect the nerves, blood, or lymphatic system of the body. Additionally, a range of essential oils can also be used to increase the effectiveness of a Tuina massage. In recent times, the use of candles scented with essential oils has also become increasingly popular among Chinese medicine practitioners. Scented candles not only help create a therapeutic atmosphere but can also help address a range of concerns, including unhealthy food cravings. Burning a candle that boasts a scent with hints of vanilla can, for example, make it much easier to stop snacking on sugary treats, contributing towards healthy body weight and improved overall health.


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Lavender oil is a popular choice

Although there is a wide variety of essential oils utilized in Chinese medicine, lavender oil is among the most popular. One of its primary functions is to promote the smooth flow of liver Qi, while also calming the Shen and cleansing it of heat. As a Yin nourisher, lavender essential oil can calm the mind and help protect the heart. It is known to ease depression, reduce stress levels, and even neutralize a frantic state of mind. Lavender oil is often used with great success to alleviate headache-causing tension, reduce the prevalence of inflammation in the body, and ward off various viral and bacterial infections. Other essential oils that are very commonly used in various applications of Chinese medicine include geranium, lemongrass and bergamot.

Essential oils have been used extensively in Chinese medicine for centuries. With all the potential benefits they boast, it is no surprise that the Western world has also started to embrace the power of essential oils in recent times.


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How Meditation Changes The Brain, Exterminates Depression

By Tiffany Harper

Meditation is an old spiritual exercise, commonly associated with Oriental spirituality. The method involves mindfulness, relaxation, and breathing patterns. The goal is to achieve a general state of well-being, specifically a psychological one. Today, meditation is a widespread wellness practice. You can find through meditation tutorials in books, on Youtube, or by taking classes.

So, chances are you tried meditation at least once. Therefore, you can agree that meditation is undoubtedly an excellent way to relax and unwind. But does it have real scientifically proven benefits on the brain? In this article, you’ll find out more about how meditation changes the brain and exterminates depression.

Meditation Against Depression And Anxiety

Mindful meditation is just as powerful as antidepressants. According to some research, the subjects experienced less anxiety, pain, and depression after practicing meditation. The result was incredible: meditation had a 0.3 effect on the subjects (moderate), which is just as much as the 0.3 of antidepressant medicines. Moreover, meditation can help reduce social anxiety. A precise type of meditation, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which focuses on stress, showed significant results in research. The participants took a course of MBSR for eight weeks, and the results were reduced physical and mental anxiety and stress. Furthermore, the effects lasted over the years. Lastly, meditation was found as a solution to social anxiety disorder: mindfulness reduces the activity of parts of the brain associated with unhappiness.

Meditation Improves Focus

A common problem among the global population is the difficulty to focus. Meditation was found to help increase concentration and attention. In one study, participants had meditation training for a few weeks. Then, they were tested for cognitive skills, including focus. The results revealed that they improved by 16%. This means that people who teach, work, or use their intellectual power for tasks can tackle their jobs better.

Likewise, kids were tested for their concentration skills since they are often associated with a lack of focus. In this case, meditation had a massive impact on developing minds. It can help with cognitive skills as well as emotional skills. Some schools implemented short meditation breaks, which brought an increase in GPAs and attendances, and a decrease in suspensions.

Meditation Helps Against Brain Aging

UCLA conducted a study that linked meditation to brain aging. They compared the brains of participants who meditated regularly to participants who didn’t. The results proved that the brains of the subjects who meditated still aged. However, they had more gray matter volume than the others. Even comparing old participants with young ones proved that meditation could slow the aging process of the brain while reducing the loss of gray matter.

Meditation Decreases The Activity Of The DMN

The Default Mode Network (DMN) consists of various parts of the brain that regulate self-referential and mind-wandering ideas. These thoughts are associated with unhappiness, worrying, and anxiety. A study by Yale University proves that meditation quiets the DMN. The participants who meditated could switch back to the present moment, while non-meditators would get lost in negative and worrying thoughts easier.

Meditation Positively Changes The Brain

A Harvard study showed that meditation could change the volume and dimensions of various brain parts. The research studied the participants in the eight-week program of MBSR:

  • The subjects had increased hippocampus thickness, which means that they improved their memory, emotional control, and learning skills.
  • The subjects showed diminished amygdala, which means that they are less likely to be afraid, anxious, and stressed.
  • The subjects showed a different perception of moods and emotions.

Meditation Against Addictions

Since meditation is centered around self-control, it was found to be useful against a variety of addictions. One research study proved that smoking addicts were more likely to give up smoking after meditation training. So, mindfulness showed even better results than the “Freedom From Smoking” program (FFS) after the 17-week follow-up. The reason behind the study’s success is that meditation helps people resist temptations, withdrawals, or cravings because it interrupts the connection between those and the addiction itself.

How To Effectively Meditate

Now that we know how many benefits meditation can bring, it’s time to practice it. At first, meditation can seem a challenging activity to do, or that requires special techniques and training. Nevertheless, meditation is a simple method to refocus the brain on the present moment, thus reducing stress, anxiety, brain aging, and other issues. Initially, it may seem impossible to quiet the mind. Still, after a couple of sessions, you may improve your cognitive skills.

Here is a simple guide to meditation:

  • Find a peaceful place in your home. It could be your living room, or even in your backyard. You can light up some candles or open up the window to create a pleasant atmosphere. If you’re going to focus on your breathing, you might want to have fresh or lightly scented air in your space. You also might want to play some calming music, especially if the environment you’re in isn’t quiet enough.
  • Find a good position. You can sit upright on a cushion on the floor with your legs crossed. Alternatively, you can lay on the bed or a mat and blanket. Just make sure that you’re comfortable and that your back is straight. If you’re sitting horizontally, make sure that your belly’s facing the ceiling.
  • Close your eyes. If you wish to work with your mind, you might want to rest your eyes to focus better.
  • Start to breathe slowly. You can inhale for four seconds and exhale for four. Take as many as you need to ease into it.
  • Observe your thoughts rather than thinking about them. Your brain will inevitably want to wander off and think about chores, fears, and feelings. Please don’t beat yourself up for it. Just try to observe them and gently come back to your breath.
  • Continue breathing and observe every sensation in the body.
  • Try to reach a mental state where you’re focusing on your sensation and your brain instead of thinking thoughts.

Keep coming back to your senses and breathing every time you get distracted.

  • Accept that your mind may not want to settle down. Just keep trying.
  • Once you reach a calm state, continue to breathe.
  • When you’re satisfied with your session, bat your eyelashes open and slowly return to your day.

Conclusion

The spiritual practice of meditation has a myriad of benefits, from reducing brain aging to improving mood, focus, and self-control. If you want to start meditating, find a quiet place in your home to focus on your breath with your eyes closed. The first day you may not be able to concentrate on your breath well. Nonetheless, if you keep trying, you’ll get there.


Author Bio
Tiffany Harper is a freelancer and blogger from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She specializes in psychology, natural remedies, and wellness topics. Tiffany is also a yoga lover, so every Saturday if she is not working as a consultant with an essay writer from Write My Essay, she spends her free time meditating in the local park. Please do not hesitate to contact her on twitter


Sources:
1. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/04/harvard-researchers-study-how-mindfulness-may-change-the-brain-in-depressed-patients/
2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/how-meditation-helps-with-depression
3. https://eocinstitute.org/meditation/depression-shrinks-our-brain-how-meditation-builds-it-back-up/
4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/02/09/7-ways-meditation-can-actually-change-the-brain/#207157b71465
5. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/what-does-mindfulness-meditation-do-to-your-brain/
6. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindfulness-in-frantic-world/201110/curing-depression-mindfulness-meditation


Other Sources:
1. [http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspxarticleid=1809754]
2. [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/016383439500025M]
3. [http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/1/65.short]
4. [http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/5/776]
5. [https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00215.x]
6. [http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10826-013-9784-4]
7. [http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551/full]
8. [http://www.pnas.org/content/108/50/20254.short]
9. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ articles/PMC3004979/]
10. [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ articles/PMC3927233/]
11. [http://www.pnas.org/content/110/34/13971.short]


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Emotional Healing In A Time of Crisis

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

We are living in unprecedented times in our world. We have just lived through a global pandemic of COVID-19 and the world we knew no longer exists. Anger and frustration are coming out in so many ways all over the world as people struggle with the new reality and many struggle to survive. 

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To me, it isn’t the physical challenges that the virus presents that worry me, it is the emotional state of our global population. In the US we see riots, campaigns to defund the police, racial tensions, destruction of property and businesses and unprecedented violence. No matter how many of us may want to politicize what is happening, I think it points to something much deeper that has been brewing for much longer than many people realize. People are angry. They are frustrated. Life is getting harder. People work more for less money. There is so much uncertainty about the future. Many have lost their businesses. Their jobs. Their abilities to support their families. People are exhausted and scared. And they see more and more corruption at every level of business and government - which only feeds the anger and frustration that a few profit at the expense of so many. 

 


Photo by Tito Texidor III on Unsplash

I can’t offer a solution to the problems we face as a global community, but I think that we need to be honest about what is happening and be able to express those feelings. We have a right to be angry, frustrated and afraid. And we need to give those feelings a place to go. There is so much “political correctness” that people these days feel that they can’t say anything for fear it will offend somebody. We need to be able to have honest discussions about what is REAL and TRUE. And yes, it might offend somebody. In the present climate, the truth seems to have become a dirty word. The truth might hurt someone’s feelings. The truth might not be what someone wants to hear. And this is part of the problem. Because the truth is what is going to save us. 

For most of my life and career, I have been very conscious of focussing on the good. The positive. Practising kindness. Being loving. Having compassion. But I don’t insulate my life and not let anything negative come in. That would be delusional. When you are healing, people come and they need those things. They are hurting so they need love, kindness, compassion and your positivity and light. Those are the things that start the healing process, and support it until the end. But now I see that we seem to be having a reality problem. Some people are unable or unwilling to accept what is happening in the world. I understand this, as often, the reality is dark. It’s hard. There are things that are difficult to accept. And they hurt. 

There have been a lot of difficult truths coming to the surface lately. And if you don’t know what I am talking about, then you aren’t paying attention. This has been causing a lot of pain and a lot of grief. The new reality, for many, is difficult to accept. 

Another theme I see that is contributing to a lot of pain is that there seems to be a conscious effort to divide us. Break us apart and make us fight with each other. This breeds fear, fear of the “other” and only compounds the feelings of grief, depression, anxiety and isolation that have exploded since this all began. They want you to feel that you are alone. But the truth is, that you are not alone. There are more than 7 billion of us on the planet. We are a global community, and we have the intelligence and creativity to solve any problem we may face. But we can’t solve problems when we are angry, sad and afraid. You cannot focus your energy on solving problems when you are fighting an enemy.

I have been thinking about how we might go about trying to heal from so many of the powerful emotions we are dealing with right now. Both ones that have been building up for years, and the ones that are a result of this new situation that we find ourselves in. Chinese Medicine is really unique in how it looks at our emotions and how important they are to our health and wellbeing. As many of you know, each of the emotions is associated with an organ or an organ pair and when that emotion is healthy and in balance, it is strengthening to the body and that organ in particular. But when that emotion is out of balance, in excess or unexpressed, it is depleting to the body and its respective organs, causing problems in all aspects of your life and health. Generally in our culture, we are not taught that emotions can make us sick, but I think that most of us instinctively know that this is true. How does your stomach feel when you worry? Or how about those headaches when you are angry and stressed? How does your heart feel when you are grieving?

The good news is that because emotions are built into the system of Chinese Medicine, it also offers solutions and practices we can use to keep emotionally healthy. Each of the seasons, for example, offer us an opportunity to really work to clear old emotions we’ve been holding on to and balance and strengthen the system. I have been thinking that this wisdom is so needed right now. 

The emotions - things that hurt us, cause us grief or stir up anger can be an opportunity to learn something about ourselves. Why are we having these reactions to things that are happening? Why does one person respond to a situation in anger when another might feel grief?

Treating Emotions in the Real World

Helping us to manage the tsunami of emotions we are all feeling right now is the understanding that we must first become aware of the emotions, and then work to change not WHAT we are feeling but how we REACT to those feelings. Read that again. It's so simple, but it will likely change the way you think about how you may be feeling.

In my work with patients, we often start with simple awareness. Let's use an example.

If you are struggling with a particular emotion, let's say grief. Usually (but not always), the person is aware of the grief. The cause is the death of someone close to them, their loss is causing the grief. The lungs in Chinese Medicine are associated with grief, so there might be lung symptoms as well- shortness of breath, asthma, dizziness (not enough oxygen), coughing, etc. Their grief can literally be causing the lung symptoms because intense or excessive grief weakens the lungs' Qi. The person is describing how they are feeling, saying they feel consumed by their grief, out of breath, have no energy and are anxious and stressed because the grief is making it difficult to function because they still need to go to work and look after their young children. And this is it. The grief is a completely natural result of someone important in your life passing away. But the reaction is an increasing feeling of anxiety and panic because there is no space for the grief in their life because they have to keep going to work and looking after children.

So, we look at those feelings first - the anxiety and panic - and we figure out a way to help to manage them. Are you able to take some time off? Could the children go to stay with a grandparent for a few days? Can you take some time to allow yourself the space to grieve? Do you have someone you can talk to about everything you are feeling? All of these things will help release some of the pressure that can make these emotions so overwhelming. Just the acknowledgement begins the healing process. We start with the reaction - the anxiety because of the pressure to keep going normally while you are suffering - and work backwards to the grief itself.

When we get to the grief, there are a few ways that we can help reduce its intensity. We work to strengthen the lungs and build up their Qi, which very often helps lessen the grief's potency. We create a space for the grief to be felt, fully allowing those feelings to be expressed. In Chinese Medicine, the way emotions can be causes of disease is if they are repressed or unexpressed, leading to a stagnation in the body and eventual toxicity. Anyone who has a secret or something in their past they have been holding on to for years can tell you. It has an effect. Holding on to emotions isn't good for you, so finding the proper avenue for their expression is an important part of the healing process.

We are living in challenging times that are unprecedented in our history. Our struggles are multi-faceted right now. People are struggling to find their way in the new reality we face as a global community. The good news is that human beings have incredible intelligence, adaptability and resiliency. If we are able to stay positive, stick together and express what we are all feeling honestly, we can come out the other side of these difficult times stronger and with a new appreciation for everything good that still exists in this world.

If you need help working through what you are feeling right now or healing in general, I am here for you. My information is below.


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Online Tai Chi and Other Virtual Martial Arts Classes: Why Do It and How to Get Started

By Patrick Bailey

With so many pathways to achieve wellness, traditional Eastern martial arts remain one of the most recognized systems in the world. Aside from being hailed in movies and books, Eastern martial arts have a lot of health benefits that both old and young students can have.

Often, martial arts classes such as Tai Chi or Kung Fu are held through in-person classes where students are distanced in equal spaces, relatively close to each other. In some instances, students gather in circles and take turns in the middle for a return demonstration of techniques.

Shifting Platforms With the New Normal

As the world takes a 180-degree turn due to a global pandemic, many fitness and wellness services have to adapt to the “new normal” as well. Social distancing measures in place shifted martial arts classes from in-person to virtual ones. 

In some schools [1], virtual martial arts classes are being held as an extracurricular activity, and many martial arts schools have followed suit. Instructors now offer online courses, both live and recorded to help learners choose options that work for them.

Considering Online Tai Chi and Other Virtual Martial Arts? Why You Should Do It

If you’re someone who wants to try online Tai Chi and other virtual martial arts classes, you may be thinking, “What’s in it for me?”

Unlike regular exercise that can get repetitive at times, learning martial arts is a skill that proves to be useful in other areas of your life. Below are some of the advantages you can get from these classes.

Improves mood and fights stress

Tai chi [2] is a low-impact type of martial arts using gentle movements. It is often dubbed as “meditation in motion”, as participants use flowing poses. Tai chi is ideal for those who want to begin their journey in exploring Eastern martial arts, especially if their goal is to reduce stress and anxiety.

Other forms of martial arts such as Kung Fu improve cardiovascular health and blood flow. When blood flows better, your cognition improves, as well as your overall mood. Doing online classes that help decrease anxiety is something timely. When people struggle with the limitations of social distancing, taking virtual martial arts sessions may be what they need.

Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

Helps in muscular strength

According to Harvard Health [3], there is a growing number of convincing research that Tai Chi and other forms of martial arts improve one’s muscular strength. As movements sustain muscle flexion, people can gain upper and lower body strength. 

If you’re considering a dynamic form of exercise aside from using dumbbells or barbels, attending virtual martial arts classes can be a great option. Lacking outdoor activities can cause weight gain and muscular weakness, thus, having access to online Tai Chi and other Eastern systems that interest you can help avoid those risks.

Fights addiction tendencies

The University of Michigan [4] stated that dealing with the stress of isolation makes people prone to abusing alcohol and drugs. Addiction, in turn, causes immune system susceptibility to diseases such as COVID-19. This cycle of addiction along with a weak immune system increases the risk of people losing their health, and even their lives.

Practising virtual martial arts during these challenging times helps individuals develop self-discipline and focus on goals. The underlying principles of Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Kung Fu is all about adhering to systems and sacrificing instant gratifications for the greater good. It is no wonder why martial arts have been a welcome treatment option for many drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. It is an effective, holistic tool for battling substance abuse.

How To Get Started With Online Martial Arts Classes

The great thing about online Tai chi and other virtual martial arts classes is that you’re not confined to local establishments to get started. You can sign up under any instructor or company that offers classes as long as it fits your preferences and schedule. If you are ready to take a leap with online martial arts classes, here are some helpful tips.

  • Consider your online classes as a “real” class: It can be easy to devalue online classes by having a lesser level of commitment. However, it is important to consider online classes as if you are taking them in-person. If you need a higher level of accountability, you can sign up for a live instructor.
  • Have a regular working space: To get the maximum benefits of virtual martial arts classes, it is helpful to have space where you regularly do your sessions. Setting aside an organized space allows you to focus your thoughts on the activity, thereby decreasing mental clutter and stress.
  • Being open to new things: In the first few sessions, you may not find yourself keen on continuing a class that you feel doesn’t suit you well. However, a part of succeeding in martial arts is being open to new experiences even if you haven’t enjoyed it yet during your first time. Keeping a curious mind before quitting right away will open doors for you to learn new things.

Virtual Martial Arts Classes for Health and Wellness: Something Worth Trying

Are you searching for ways to ease the stress of changing times? Virtual martial arts classes may just be your cup of tea. With its numerous health and wellness benefits, you are sure to combine learning a new skill along with accomplishing your fitness goals.

Sources:

 

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Martial Arts for Over 50's

By Cameron Cromwell

A commonly asked question is, ‘Can I start martial arts if I am over 50?’ The short answer is, absolutely yes! It is never too late to take up martial arts. This is especially true with the variety of martial arts and training programs available today. Many schools are offering classes that are ideally suited for older beginners.

There are a lot of reasons why someone over 50 might be contemplating taking up martial arts for the first time, or even returning to martial arts after many years away. I have provided a list of benefits specifically this age group. If you decide to give it a try then there is nothing stopping you. However, to help you get the best start I have also provided some advice that you may find helpful.

The Benefits

Fitness

Strength is perhaps the most obvious benefit because martial arts is a physical activity. Any type of resistance training helps to keep the muscles strong and healthy. In turn, this helps you to stay active and mobile while reducing the chance of injury from normal daily activities, such as moving heavy items around. It also helps to keep pain and discomfort away as you get older.

Balance & coordination improves form the strength and conditioning of your muscles and by ensuring your core remains strong. Good balance and coordination help to avoid injuries from falling or not getting out of the way quickly.

Flexibility comes from good stretching of all parts of the body. This is an important part of any good martial art training because flexibility helps you to be more effective with the skills and techniques you are taught. Good flexibility can help you in all parts of your life by reducing the risk of injury from normal day to day activities. Muscles will lose their elasticity over time if we allow it and this increases the chances of pulling or tearing a muscle or ligament. Injuries like this can take much longer to heal as we get older.

Cardiovascular improves when you regularly exercise and get your heartbeat up. This has many known health benefits. By improving your circulatory system, which includes your heart and blood vessels, your body is able to efficiently deliver nutrients and oxygen to the tissues of your body and to remove carbon dioxide and other wastes. In turn, this increases energy levels, makes it easier to sustain energetic activities, and recover faster from exercise and even injuries.

Weight loss becomes more of a consideration for us as we get older. Most of us find it too easy to put on unhealthy weight. Life transpires against us by slowing down our metabolism and getting us to spend more time behind a desk or doing things that require less physical activity on a daily basis. On top of this, going for regular runs or hitting the weights at the gym does not burn off the fat like it
used to.

Excess weight takes a significant toll on our health and ability to enjoy life. This is especially true if weight gain continues unchecked. However, it does not have to be an irreversible trend. It does mean that as we get older we need to exercise differently, and perhaps a little smarter. There is a lot of evidence today that controlled, high intensity, bursts of exercise and muscle strengthening, such as that offered by most martial arts, is more effective for burning fat and reducing excess weight for people over 40.

Keeping active

Simply put, staying active slows down the ageing process and helps you to get more out of life. With better fitness, you will not become tired as quickly. This is important for everyday life, but it can really make the difference of enjoying yourself when it comes to enjoying our precious weekends and vacations.

Some people want to be able to keep up with their grandchildren when the time comes. Why not make it so that your grandchildren struggle to keep up with you.

Posture

Muscle strength, flexibility and greater self-awareness of your body help to improve posture. A better posture makes you feel better about yourself and to look more self-confident. It also helps to prevent neck and back problems that can develop over time.

Self-confidence

It is amazing how much more confident you look and feel when you maintain your fitness and strength with the knowledge that you can do things that many people cannot, even those half your age. It signals to others that you may be older but you should not be underestimated.

As we get older we learn to appreciate the value of not relying on physical strength alone, even if we know we can. Martial arts help to develop an inner strength that can be drawn upon when needed. This, in turn, helps us to remain calm when the situation calls for it.

Self-defence

The martial arts have always been about self-defence. Even non-contact activities like Yoga and Tai Chi owes its roots to combative forms of martial arts.

Do you need to learn self-defence? Well, hopefully not. However, it is a sad fact that some people will try to intimidate and even prey on older people. But, getting older does not mean you have to become more vulnerable.

However, don’t expect to become Bruce Lee. It would be irresponsible to suggest that simply practising martial arts will make you invincible. The truth is that most martial arts today have developed into a sport whereby very specific rules are followed. In the real world, where things can quickly become dangerous, these rules don’t exist.

Saying that, if you train to box and you find yourself in a fistfight you will punch, block and dodge hits better. This improves your chances of not getting seriously injured. Most attacks and street brawls end up on the ground and this is where Judo or Jiu-jitsu training comes in handy.

It is true that you will become fitter, stronger and more self-confident, and these will no doubt help you defend yourself if the need arises. Your posture and body language alone may discourage someone from becoming aggressive toward you.

Mental health

Martial arts are not just about physical abilities. The tradition of most martial arts today, especially those of Asian origins, place as much emphasis on a healthy mind and positive mental attitude as they do on good physical abilities. For hundreds of years, what we have come to call ‘mindfulness’ in recent years, has always been a valued part of martial arts training. The good news is that even a healthy inner self remains an important benefit of modern martial arts.

Social interaction - Martial arts provide wellbeing in lots of ways. For example, just by participating you engage in social interaction and you are likely to make friends. Friends help to keep you going when you are tired or feeling low. As we get older it is easy to allow ourselves to become lonely and isolated. Joining a martial arts class is a great way to prevent this from happening.

Endorphins - Classes with periods of intense training will increase your levels of endorphins. Sometimes referred to as a ‘runner’s high’ this is a natural way of creating a good feeling. Regular exercise and release of endorphins are linked to improvements in mental health in people of all ages. Just because you are older doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the type of training that releases endorphins, even if start gradually and build up over time.

Personal achievement - As you learn new skills and are capable of doing things you could never do before you will enjoy a sense of personal achievement. This is enhanced when you are feeling more physically fit. Once you start training it will not take long to start feeling the boost to your self-esteem and general good feeling.

Cognitive function - Martials arts require learning very precise and accurate movements. Often these movements become a trained response to other stimulation. The more complicated the response and movement the more practice that is needed to perfect it. This training develops a good connection between your brain and muscles. There are studies that show an improvement in the cognitive ability of people over 50 after only 8 weeks of practising Tai Chi.

Reduced stress - Unfortunately, getting older does not necessarily mean you will become less stressed. This is especially true if you have greater responsibilities at work or demands from your family and life in general. Stress, if not managed correctly, can have serious health consequences.

Martial arts teach you to relax as you train to be more effective. Most people find that the focus during training causes them to temporarily forget all the things causing stress in their life. Then there are the physical exertions of martial arts to vent any pent-up, negative, energy. The endorphins that are released help to reduce pain, and they also help you to sleep better which helps
to reduce stress.

Getting Started

If you are reading this then you are probably aware that as you become older your body becomes more vulnerable to injury. Not everyone shows signs of ageing at the same rates, but nevertheless we are all ageing. While there is a lot that you can still do, probably much more than you might think, you will need to consider two things:

1) Your starting point
2) The limitations of your body

If you are already reasonably fit you will find it easier to get started with martial arts, just as you would with any new sport. If you have not been doing any form of physical exercise for a while your muscles will need time to strengthen. Beginner classes are intended to help you gradually build up your fitness while learning basic techniques.

Can’t kick someone above their shins? No problem. If it is a flexibility issue then you will improve. If you have a permanent restriction, such as bad hip or knee, oftentimes it is possible to learn how to safely adapt. Martial arts can even help to improve some injuries. For example, if you suffer from lower back pain then martial arts will keep your core muscles strong which protects the spine. A slimmer belly from exercising takes considerable strain off the lower back.

Still not sure? You can always get a medical check-up. Use the results to help you decide the type of training that is most suitable for you. You can discuss the results with a potential school instructor when looking for a martial arts school or club to join.

Of course, there are some limitations and disabilities that will make most martial arts impractical. You will need to decide this for yourself, but don’t be too hasty in telling yourself you can’t learn martial arts. It is worth exploring the different types to find out if there is one for you. I have recently seen a martial arts program that teaches the use of a cane for self-defence, which included students in wheelchairs.

Types of Martial Arts

This would become a very long article if I attempted described every type of martial art that is practised today. Even the more commonly practised martial arts make a long list. For an idea of popular martial arts that might appeal to you have a look at A Guide to the Most Popular Martial Arts.

Selecting a Martial Arts School

In many ways, the martial arts school, its attitude, its culture, and the available programs are more important than the type of martial art that you choose. When making a decision here are a few things you may want to consider:

  • Ask to join a taster session – these are usually free.
  • Ask to observe a few beginner classes to see what they are really like – avoid clubs that focus on training fighters
  • Find a school that you can easily get to – you are more likely to stick with it if it is reasonably convenient to get to the classes.
  • Take a friend or family member. This can make it more enjoyable to get started.
  • Women only classes - some schools offer a friendly and less intimidating environment for women to get started.
  • Senior only classes - some schools offer classes that provide a training program designed for older participants.
  • Speak to the owner or lead instructor -
    • What are his/her credentials?
    • What is his or her attitude toward training?
    • What is his or her approach to helping older people to get started?
    • Can techniques be adapted to help students with physical limitations?

All martial arts have benefits. The best way to find out how you will personally benefit is to give it a try. Start with one and discover what you like about it. Sometimes it is the type of martial arts, sometimes it is the type of training, and sometimes it is just the class and the people in it that make it appealing.

If you are not sure about the school that you joined, for whatever reason, try a different school or martial art. Lots of people try more than one martial art for many reasons. You can even join more than one at the same time.

What to Expect

There is nothing wrong with engaging any type of martial arts at any point in your life. There are plenty of examples of people in their 70s earning black belts. I recently saw a video of someone in their 80s learning military-style self-defence for the first time, albeit in a suitably structured one-to-one lesson.

No matter how much you want to jump in with both feet and start training like could in your 20's and 30's it just isn’t going to work exactly the same. Even if you are reasonably fit, once you are into your 40's and beyond you need to think differently about your training. This is not to say you can’t be strong and fit, it just takes a different approach. Martial arts can provide ideal training as you get older.

Many schools that traditionally taught the hard-impact martial arts like boxing, kickboxing, and Muay Thai now offer non-contact classes. These are perfect for beginners and anyone wanting to enjoy the physical and mental benefits without the aggressive sparring that could lead to injury. These classes are just as fun and challenging.

 

Cameron Cromwell is the creator of Absolutely Martial Arts, a website aimed at introducing people to martial arts and helping them to get started.



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The Positive Impact Of Chinese Medicine On Men’s Health

By Sally Perkins

There is an undoubted disparity in how men and women engage with healthcare globally, with the global life expectancy of men five years lower than that of women, according to The Lancet. With this disparity more present in highly developed countries than the converse, this indicates that the problems are not merely related to gender but are actually a holistic reflection of the lives men are leading. In this respect, the all-encompassing approach of Chinese medicine can have a wonderful impact on men’s health.

Mental Health

Mental health is a key driver behind many of the problems impacting men. From simple mental illness to heart disease, there are a wide range of problems in men of which the risk factors are enhanced by mental health conditions. As one influential study published by The College of Family Physicians of Canada found, the idea of being masculine and keeping a stiff upper lip contributes to this. The impacts of mental health can filter into several areas of life that you might not expect. For instance, even a relatively mild diagnosis of depression can lead to weight loss or gain, feelings of resentment for family and physical conditions such as erectile dysfunction. The spiritual basis of Chinese medicine provides a good remedy to mental health conditions; Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism all provide a philosophical and spiritual basis on which to live life and ultimately keep people feeling mentally healthy.

Protecting the Heart

Mental health and the heart have a symbiotic relationship, and using Chinese medicine to protect against vascular disease and stress can have an all-round positive impact. Tomatoes, beef, cherry, saffron – there’s a long list of foods that will benefit the heart and also produce a feeling of wellness and content. With this feeling the body can protect against the types of stress that men will often harbor when not paying close attention to their mental health. In turn, this can provide a safety jacket against the stresses of the world as a whole and improve health overall.

Relieving the Strain

Prevention is one matter; remediation another. A powerful way that Chinese medicine can rectify issues is through acupuncture, which is noted by The Mayo Clinic to have studies showing it’s efficacy. The act of acupuncture itself is often described as relaxing and stress-relieving, and the impact after the fact is long-lived and has a great benefit on all-round health. Men can work towards all-round areas of health that intersect, like the heart and mental health, and likely feel greater ranging benefits as a result of the holistic treatment.

In holistic treatment lies the key to improving men’s health. The issues that predominantly impact men and lower their life expectancy have an impact on one another, with vascular and mental health being particularly interlinked. Reducing stress and protecting those vital systems is an ideal pursuit for Chinese medicine, and can possibly help to close that life expectancy gap wherever men are in the world.


Featured image Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash
Man image Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash
Tomato image photo by Thomas Martinsen 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"


Supporting a Safe and Healthy Pregnancy Using Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Sally Perkins

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) diagnoses are now included in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) of the World Health Organization (WHO) beginning 2022. The inclusion is good news for practitioners and patients, as TCM is increasingly becoming a part of global health care. One of the areas where TCM can help is during pregnancy where a woman can manifest symptoms that need intervention or treatment.  Chinese medicine, when used properly, could offer a safe option to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Herbal Medicine for Expectant Mothers 

TCM has several components such as acupuncture and herbal medicine. Much in the same way that traditional medicine can assist in improving fertility rates and eventually in conceiving, it can also help during the gestation period. Pregnant women can take herbs such as ginger, chamomile, or peppermint that reduce the symptoms of early pregnancy specifically nausea or morning sickness.

However, it should be noted that there are other complications that may arise if you are pregnant. As the body undergoes hormonal changes, you will also experience side effects. For example, the placenta produces hormones that can contribute to an accumulation of glucose in the blood. If your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin, sugar levels will increase and a pregnant woman might develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Fortunately, it resolves once a woman has completed pregnancy or has given birth.

In the meantime, there are several things that you can do to control GDM. If properly used, herbal medicine can help bring down glucose levels. Other ways to manage the symptoms of GDM include wearing of stockings for good circulation, paying attention to diets, and exercising.

Acupuncture to Consolidate Energy

Acupuncture is another key component of TCM that can benefit pregnant women. It should be noted that the usual precautions apply -  avoidance of infection and dangerous pressure points.

For expectant moms, you don’t want to touch pressure points that can induce any pain, touch vital organs, or puncture the fetus. In addition, there is a list of acupuncture points that must be avoided because of their oxytocic effect which may induce the mother to go into labor or at worst, a miscarriage.  Overall, acupuncture may be practiced using gentle needling that will aim to enhance a woman’s energy without over stimulating or disturbing the pregnancy.

TCM can benefit a pregnant woman in several ways. It can consolidate her energy, improve mood and enhance overall health contributing to a safe and healthy pregnancy.

 

Beautiful featured image photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič - @specialdaddy on Unsplash



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