Exercise Is The Perfect Complement To Traditional Medicine

By Sally Perkins

Being told to exercise is likely one of the most common treatments ‘prescribed’ by contemporary doctors. It’s not without merit, and there are a multitude of benefits to be gained from exercise that are discovered every day. For example, medical researchers have recently found that 10% of advanced lung cancer patients benefited from exercise.

What role does exercise have to play in traditional medicine? The likes of tai chi and tui na already have a physical aspect and the benefits of those practices are well known. Both within Chinese medicine and other non-western medicines, physical activity has been shown to have a positive contribution to overall health when used in conjunction with other methods.

Tai Chi, Yoga, and The In Between


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Coming from different corners of the continent, tai chi and yoga have remarkable similarities despite their differences. Both rely on stretching movements, but yoga is more energetic and pushes into stillness; whereas tai chi relies on fluid movements to relax the muscles in preparation for stretching later. Recently, they have ‘combined’ in a way to create yin yoga. Early studies have suggested that this particular type of yoga, when conducted safely and with the proper equipment, can have a strong positive influence on health. One study, conducted by Lund University, Sweden, found that yin yoga could significantly reduce physiological and psychological risk factors. The study found that those taking part in yin yoga had reduced levels of ADM, a marker often found in those developing non-communicable disorders such as cardiovascular disease.

Is Vigorous Physical Activity Possible?

Vigorous activity is not part and parcel of Chinese medicine. As the Traditional Chinese Medicine foundation have noted, sweat is the fluid of the heart, and vigorous activity will unbalance your Qi creating a deficiency. What’s the solution?

One potential is swimming. Swimming can be moderately vigorous, requiring every muscle in the body to work in tandem to stay float and propel. However, it can be moderated, and sweat is greatly reduced when in a colder pool. There is also evidence to show swimming can work well in tandem with traditional Chinese medicine. Researchers from Zhongshan Hospital, Shanghai, China, found that songyou yin and swimming aided liver immunity when used in conjunction. Ultimately, this reduced the levels of liver cancer in the study group.

The Bottom Line


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Bringing in more energetic forms of traditional exercise, and more mainstream methods, such as swimming, have an overall contributory effect to your health. However, multiple studies have shown the well established link between traditional Chinese exercises, like tai chi, and good health. As this South China Morning Post article clearly outlines, the holistic use of traditional Chinese exercises, good diet and mindfulness (or meditation) mitigate many cardiovascular ailments, regardless of country; the study cited pointed out that over 2,000 people across 10 countries reported on.

Traditional medicine has shown its effectiveness when paired with exercise. There are ways to augment this in order to provide the maximum benefits for your health. However, while these have been shown to help, the best way to stay fit is through traditional routines.

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How to Get Healthy in 2016 with Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Eat Your Medicine

There is a huge emphasis in Chinese medicine that the food we eat is our best medicine. Food, after all, is the medicine we take into our bodies many times a day. This philosophy makes sense, especially when you are talking about Chinese medicine, which is a medicine of prevention. Why not eat to stay healthy so that you never get sick? So how, you might ask, can I eat in the healthiest way according to Chinese medicine? Well, eating with the seasons is one of the fundamentals. This used to be the way that not only the Chinese ate, but the way all of our ancestors ate as well. What was eaten was what was grown in that particular season - which is what our bodies, and especially our digestive systems were designed for. Part of the reason that we have so many digestive problems in our present culture is because we are able to eat foods that grow in all seasons (because of the miracle of mass transportation and refrigeration): strawberries in winter, root vegetables in summer, etc... Although it is wonderful to have this kind of variety all year around, it is not what our digestive systems were designed for, and they are still catching up as far as evolution is concerned. In Chinese medicine there are also many foods and recipes that are used when we come down with something like a cold or flu. Congee is a good example - and there are a few excellent recipes here - Winter Congee for Colds & Flu, Chicken & Corn Congee, Ginseng Congee for Health & Longevity.  Part of the job of the Chinese medicine practitioner is not only to administer acupuncture and herbs, but also to consult their patient about nutritional therapy to help the body to rebalance and heal, because, food is some of the most powerful medicine. :)

Reconnect With Nature

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

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There is nothing more healing that walking on the beach by the ocean, or strolling through an old growth forest. And nothing reconnects you better than lying in the grass, or taking your shoes off and walking directly on the earth. As a species, we are presently more connected to each other than at any other time in our history, which is amazing and makes out lives better in many ways. Access to information, sharing of knowledge and being connected to people who are far away has never been easier. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost our connection to nature. Children, instead of playing outside as they once did, often sit inside, in front of the TV instead of exploring the natural world, running and playing outdoors. As we grow into adults we spend years in schools sitting at desks, until we venture out into the working world where we sit indoors for many hours a day until we can go home to rest. Our bodies were designed to MOVE, and our lives used to be completely connected to the outdoors, where we were in constant contact with the incredible healing energy of nature. So make some time to go outside every day. Smell a flower. Hug a tree. Walk barefoot in some grass or gaze at the sky. Your body (as well as your mind) will love you for it.

Live With the Seasons

Chinese medicine tells us that to be in harmony with our bodies and in good health, we must also be in harmony with nature. This means living with the seasons. Every season has its own unique energy - winter contracts, spring is expansive, summer radiates and fall begins to withdraw. Each of the seasons has its own unique energy, and Chinese medicine teaches us the ways in which we can aspire to live in harmony with those energies. For example, in winter we go to bed earlier and sleep later, we pay close attention to the kidneys (the organ associated with winter) and eat foods that grow slowly and deep in the ground - like root vegetables - that are warming in nature. We look inward and nourish our inner selves in this season. Our lifestyles should reflect the season we are in, and Chinese medicine gives us many ways in which to do this. You can learn how in the following posts...

Winter

•   Living According to the Winter Season with Chinese Medicine

Spring

•   Loving Your Liver with Chinese Medicine
•   Loving Your Liver with Nutrition
•   The Liver & Anger

Summer

•   Living With the Seasons - Summer
•   Summer Foods & Preparation According to Chinese Medicine

Autumn / Fall

•   Living With the Seasons - Autumn / Fall

Be Grateful

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

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This is one that I have learned from experience both in my own life and from many years of treating patients. For me, I have noticed that when I am having a difficult time, down in the dumps and struggling, one of the best things that I can do to pull myself out of it is to take time on a regular basis to go through a mental list of all the things that I am grateful for. When it comes to my patients, I noticed after a few years that the patients that I had with the most problems, chronic imbalances, pain and recurring illnesses were generally the ones who were the most unhappy, the most negative and the least optimistic. I am a firm believer that we attract what we think about, and I have experienced the benefits of a positive attitude, especially when things in our lives are difficult. I know that I have worked this into my morning routine, taking time every day when I get up to go through all the things that I am grateful for. This is a really good way to remind yourself of what is awesome in your life and by doing this, you are more likely to attract positive things, people and experiences into your life as well.

Meditate

We are now starting to understand scientifically the benefits of meditation on the mind and body, but many cultures around the world have been aware of the enormous benefits of meditation for thousands of years. Places like India and much of Asia have a long history of meditation. A lot of people are intimidated at the thought of meditating, especially if they are doing it for the first time. Of course, there are many techniques when it comes to meditation, but I believe that even a few minutes a day of sitting quietly, allowing your mind to just "relax" is of huge benefit on many levels. If you want to get really hard core, there are many, many meditation techniques out there, you just need to find the one that feels right to you. I have done a couple of Vipassana meditation retreats which were amazing experiences (you can read about them here - My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation & Vipassana 2.0). Meditation helps us to decompress in a world that leaves us overstimulated and exhausted, without enough time to relax. Its benefits include alleviating stress, improving sleep and boosting the immune system. I know most people cannot dedicate an hour or more to meditation every day, but even just ten to twenty minutes will make a huge difference, just try it out and see.

Get Enough Sleep

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

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When we sleep our body gets a chance to heal and repair. Problems with sleep, either problems falling or staying asleep, are common. As a culture, we tend to not get enough sleep and the quality of our sleep is compromised, which means more stress on our immune systems which can lead to illnesses. There is no magic number when it comes to optimum number of hours a person should sleep at night, but that feeling of exhaustion should not be present when we wake up (and it so often is). Think of sleep like you think about the food you eat, that it is medicine for the body. Another good thing to remember is that melatonin - the hormone produced by the pineal gland that regulates sleep - is released according to cycles of light and darkness. We were designed to be awake when it is light and to sleep when it is dark. This has largely changed with the invention of electric lights, so a good way to improve sleep is to keep your bedroom as dark as possible with as few electronic devices as possible in the room, especially close to your head. Being in complete darkness will ensure a better, deeper sleep which will allow your body the rest it needs as well as to repair and heal which will ensure that you stay healthy.

Breathe Deep

It seems simple, but the breath is a big part of health. Taking long, deep breaths increases the amount of oxygen that the body, all of its tissues and especially the brain, is getting. There is a theory out there that this is the function of yawning- to increase the amount of oxygen that is taken into the body. Because we spend so much time sitting, we tend to breathe more shallowly, getting less oxygen and making things like thinking, concentrating and remembering more difficult. Taking some time every day to sit up straight, or even better stand and walk around and breathe deep into your belly (like children do naturally) will help you stay awake and think more clearly. This is extra awesome because it is so easy, so breathe deep!

Express Yourself

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

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As you may know, Chinese medicine is a holistic medicine, meaning it is not just about the physical body, but about all aspects of a person. This includes the emotions, and Chinese medicine places special importance on the emotions and expressing them freely. Keeping things in, suppressing your feelings or expressing them in an inappropriate way can lead to imbalances in the body and its organ systems and lead to illness. Yes, that's right. Not expressing how you feel can make you sick, and I see this all the time. I am not telling you the next time someone cuts you off in traffic that you should follow them, wait until they get out of the car and scream at them, I mean to be aware of your feelings, and that they are appropriate to what is happening, and if not, think through where they might be coming from. If you are feeling particularly irritated by that person who cut you off, try to sort out where that frustration might be coming from (it is probably the liver). This is particularly important in our personal relationships. Holding on to things like anger, guilt, shame and other negative emotions can be detrimental to health. Journal, go for a walk to clear your head or sit and talk to a friend, or better yet, speak to the person who may have made you upset in the first place. If you get your feelings off your chest (in a kind, respectful way) you will be amazed at how much better you feel, and you will be keeping all the energy or qi flowing smoothly, which is the key to health and happiness.

Moderation

Moderation is both a concept important in Chinese medicine and I believe, in any happy, balanced person's life. In my practice I try not to tell my patients not to do this and not to do that, instead I try to communicate the importance of moderation. When I am asking about a person's diet, they inevitably will give me a sheepish look and tell me about the 2 pieces of chocolate cake they ate the night before, or the quart of ice cream or glasses of red wine they had at a party expecting looks of disapproval from me. Not at all. I try to express the importance of enjoying your life for one - if you are really desiring that piece of cake, or that glass of wine and it will give you extreme pleasure to give it to yourself, then by all means DO IT. The worst thing you can do is to have it and then feel horrible about it. That is negating any positive benefits that thing has given you. So if you do it, OWN IT. Enjoy that piece of cake or glass of wine. Allow yourself to have it if it makes you happy. Just don't do it every day perhaps, keep it balanced. Make sure that you are doing things, the good and the not so good, with moderation. Everyone needs chocolate cake sometimes. ;)

Laugh

Healthy 2016 With Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

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Joy is the emotion of the heart in Chinese medicine. Makes sense, right? When we feel joy, happiness, laugh, all of these emotions we tend to feel in the heart. The heart is the benevolent ruler of all the other organs, and to feed it, we need an ample amount of joy in our lives. You can think of this also as medicine; something you must seek out to keep yourself healthy. Think about how you feel when you laugh. You feel amazing. When you hear a story about something good happening to someone, you feel happy. Notice how your body feels the next time you are feeling joy. It feels delicious. Conversely, the heart is injured if there is not enough joy in our lives, and there is certainly plenty of that. What is it like to be around someone who is deeply unhappy? Someone unable to feel joy? Their energy is dark and it is difficult to be around. Sometimes it is easy to get bogged down by all the stresses in our lives, and there are a lot of them, so this is a reminder to go out and find some joy. Seek it out. Laugh. Sing. Dance. Smile. It's good for you.

Get an Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture is one of the best ways I know to stay healthy and to heal if you are sick. Obviously I have a bit of a bias, but I also have a lot of experience both having acupuncture, and seeing its beneficial effects in my patients. Because Chinese medicine was designed as a preventative medicine, having regular "tune ups" with acupuncture is a great way to keep your immune system strong so that you never get sick. In our culture, we tend to wait until things become catastrophic (like getting a disease) before we seek out medical advice, but in many cultures, like Chinese culture, they understand that prevention is the best medicine. Acupuncture is a powerful tool to help rebalance the body, boost the immune system and keep you strong so that you never get sick. It is the thing I have used since I was a teenager, and the gift that I try to bring to my patients every day when I go to work. I am deeply in love with it, because I know it works.

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How to Get Healthy in 2016 with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living


Ultimate Health - It's All About Balance...

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

2014 is supposed to be an auspicious year. For the first time in 19 years, the new year started on a new moon, or super moon, which is defined as a new or full moon that occurs with the moon at or near within 90% of its closest approach to earth. The themes for this year are major detox and cleansing and letting go which prepares us for rebirth and new beginnings.

The new year is also a time when people make resolutions, and many are focussed on health. We all want to be a little healthier, exercise a little more, eat better and have more time for ourselves. One of the things that I love about Chinese medicine is its emphasis on lifestyle. It is not simply going to the acupuncturist when you are having a hard time sleeping or taking herbs for trouble with digestion, in its purest form it teaches how to live so that we can achieve balance in every aspect of our lives, which is the goal to ultimate health.

Living your life with complete equanimity is no small task. It seems logical and is a wonderful goal, but anyone who has tried knows that balance, which seems so simple, is unbelievably difficult in the modern world. Below are some ways in which you can work towards balance in your life for every aspect of yourself, body, mind and spirit.

Meditate

The word "meditation" may be intimidating for some as you may think that you need to "learn how" to meditate, or "do it properly" to receive any benefits from it. I believe that simply taking as few as ten minutes, a couple of times a day to sit somewhere quietly without distractions is extremely beneficial for your health and wellbeing. You don't really have to "do" anything except just sit and try to relax your mind and body. You will find that, at least at first, your mind will race around wildly and it may not be relaxing at all - this is called monkey mind. The thing is, that we seldom actually give out minds time to simply relax and let go, allowing them to go where they like. Instead we are constantly forcing them to do this and that, so meditation is an excellent opportunity to allow the mind to relax, and then hopefully, to quiet down completely. Meditation is a way to take yourself out of the chaos of your life and get back to yourself. A bit of a reboot if you will. The results will leave you feeling calmer, more relaxed and better able to handle the stresses of everyday life with equanimity.

There are of course many meditation techniques, and each person should find the ones that resonate with them. But for the beginner, just simply taking some time out once or twice a day to sit without distractions is an excellent way to get back to balance.

Eat Seasonal, Local Food

It is wonderful to see how important things like farmers markets and clean, organic foods have become to many people. There is a definite correlation between the food we eat and the state of our health. We cannot live on a diet of fast and processed foods and expect to be healthy, and the increase in degenerative diseases has borne this out. The best way to stay healthy is simple. Eat foods that are as close to the way they came out of the earth as possible. This means staying away from foods in cans, boxes and bags. The chemicals used to process these foods are detrimental to your body and your health. They are put into the foods to help them last longer, not to make you healthier. Eat organic whenever possible. Eat foods that are in season, as this is the way our digestive systems have evolved over many hundreds of years.

We live in an age of complexity disguised as convenience, but I am a believer that as far as the digestive system is concerned, simplicity is key. When it comes to food combining and choosing ingredients, simplicity is what the belly likes and Chinese medicine has much wisdom when it comes to choosing foods, combining and preparations that are in harmony with the seasons. Being mindful when we cook and prepare food is also important, as the intention we put into it is as nourishing to us as the food itself. Ever wonder why anything your mom or grandmother makes for you tastes so delicious? It's because they are making it with love and intention just for you, and you can taste it!

Go Outside

go outside for health

There is nothing more healing to our bodies and spirits than nature and connecting with the earth. Many of us have lives lived in front of computers or in offices and get precious little time outside. Making the time to be outside, even for a little while every day will give you much needed energy from the planet and allow you to reconnect with yourself. Take off your shoes and walk in the grass, or on the beach. Breathe deeply. Lie in the sun. You can feel the energy of the planet washing over you, becoming part of you. Being outside reminds us of what is important and gives us perspective - that we are not living on the earth, we are part of the earth and its energy is incredibly healing to us.

Move Your Body

capoeira move your body for health

Many illnesses in Chinese medicine are caused by stagnation, or blockages of Qi in the body. Part of the reason that stagnation is so common is our sedentary lifestyles. Our bodies were designed to walk, run and jump - to MOVE. We spent thousands of years in our history hunting for food and living nomadic lifestyles, always on the move. The good news is that there are many, many ways in which to move your body and get your Qi flowing. While these people above and doing Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art) you don't have to go out and start throwing yourself around (unless you want to of course!). Simple things like walking are very moving for Qi. Qi Gong and Tai Chi are also excellent ways in which to cultivate and move Qi - and are considered internal martial arts. There are limitless possibilities, so choose something you like. Walk on the beach. Hula hoop in your living room or chase your children around the backyard - just moving your body will move Qi and help you be a healthier, happier being.

Be in Love

having love in your life is good for your health

Feelings of love, appreciation, joy and gratitude are excellent for your health. They feel pretty good too. The endorphins released when we experience emotions like love are powerful and very healing to both body and mind. The good news is that love (appreciation, joy and gratitude) are everywhere. Smiling at someone on the bus - that's love. Holding the door open for someone who has their hands full - that's love. Petting your cat - that's love. Appreciation, gratitude and joy are largely a choice. I have a tiny rock that I often carry in my pocket, and whenever I touch it, I think about all the things that I am grateful for. This is an excellent reminder that the list is long and by simply becoming consciously aware of them, I am bringing more wonderful things into my life. I try to remain in "an attitude of gratitude". Of course, life is not easy and difficult things happen, but consciously focussing on the positive will do wonders for how you feel and ultimately, make you a happier, more positive person which is... you guessed it, good or your health. :)

Learn to Let Go

letting go is good for your health

This is one of the most powerful things we can do for our overall health and wellbeing. I see so much imbalance in the body created by people needing to control things in their lives and an inability to let go. Letting go in Chinese medicine is associated with the lungs (sadness and grief) and the large intestine (our physical ability to let go of wastes in the body). Many people have had difficult and traumatic things happen in their lives and for some reason or another have not been completely able to deal with these events and let them go. The result is that we bring these issues, hurts and demons with us into the present where they continue to hurt us. Having the awareness to be able to look back and work through those hurts and be able to let them go will help you make space for things that will serve you, like love, friendship, joy and peace. Acupuncture can help with this by keeping the lungs and large intestines strong. Other things like journaling, walking outside and meditation are helpful to help develop our ability to let go. Letting go is incredibly liberating, and the more we can let go, the healthier and happier we will be. It isn't easy, but it is definitely worth the effort, because no one deserves a healthy and balanced mind, body and spirit more than you do!